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Samuel James – And For The Dark Road Ahead

Northern Blues

13 tracks; 44.07 minutes

Samuel James established himself as a fine solo act with his first two albums, combining the classic sounds and look of the old-time blues musicians with lyrics that are definitely modern. After a three year gap he has produced a third album which continues the pattern. There are no other musicians involved, just Samuel on vocals, dobro, acoustic guitar and stompboard – interestingly credited as a Webster’s dictionary and possibly used for more literary processes during Samuel’s creative periods. All the material is original apart from a cover of Elton John/Bernie Taupin’s “Rocket Man”.

The feel of the album is well demonstrated by opening track “Tan Sedan”. Samuel’s vocals are as much spoken word as sung and he accompanies himself on guitar and stomp. “Turkish Curse” moves well away from the blues with some excellent guitar playing in more of a folk style but “Nineteen” is back in the blues with a growled spoken vocal and some exciting picking on the dobro. One of the strongest songs is the gentle love song “Holding Down The Sun” in which Samuel does not want the night to end because he is with his love: “She said she had to be home by the end of the night. But if this night were to end then so would my world. Well I can’t let it end ‘cos I’ve got plans for that girl. I will do what it takes to keep night on this land, even if I have to hold down the sun with my own hands.” The final track “Ghost” has some electric guitar which came as something of a shock after the rest of the CD!

The cover of “Rocket Man” is certainly different, with Samuel’s guitar playing on the song definitely blues but his spoken approach changing the feel of the song completely. At the heart of the CD is “The Execution Of Big Black Ben” which is divided into two parts (presumably because this is a spoken word piece without music), an amusing tale about the frustrations of a prison warden who fails at the last moment to exact revenge on Big Black Ben; a tale worth hearing for its amusing content but also for the excellence of Samuel’s recitation. Indeed one of the issues with some of the tracks here is that Samuel’s voice is mixed just a little low and it is therefore not always easy to catch the lyrics: “Another Backyard Burial” is one song that suffers from this aspect.

In summary I think that this CD will consolidate Samuel James’ reputation as one of the leading acoustic blues artists of his generation.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.

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