Samuel JamesSamuel James is like a time machine – the same one that keeps Son House and Mississippi John Hurt traveling back to the public consciousness” – Portland Phoenix

Samuel James is a performer of stunningly singular talent. A master of finger style, slide, banjo, harmonica, and piano, this phenomenon is not yet out of his twenties. With musical influences ranging from Skip James and Sonny Terry to Gus Cannon and Charley Patton, such understanding of pre-war blues is rarely embodied in the music of one person.

But Samuel James is not a revivalist. His songwriting is absolutely unparalleled in contemporary blues. His writing is descended from the long forgotten art of the songster. While musically one could compare him to Patton or Cannon, his writing goes in another direction entirely. His songs are often written as linear stories, novels in musical format: O. Henry meets Mose Allison.

James’ musical lineage stretches back to immediate post-slavery. His grandfather (b. 1890) played guitar in contemporary blues styles of the era. James’ father was a professional pianist, and trombone player. Samuel learned to tap dance at five, learned piano at eight and toured the Northeastern circuit professionally by 12. Samuel lost his mother the same year and spent his teens in foster homes. At 17 he reunited and rekindled a relationship with his father.

Samuel James fully discovered his musicianship after a young woman broke his heart. He booked a flight to Ireland figuring the gray and rainy climate would match his mindset. Short of funds to make it home, he learned harmonica from local street musicians. Collecting enough change to make it back to Maine, he gave up a nascent painting career and dove head first into the guitar. Today, still in his 20s, James releases his third CD entitled For Rosa, Maeve, and Noreen. This is Samuel James’ third album and second for the NorthernBlues label. It is produced by David Travers-Smith whose credits include Ani DiFranco, Harry Manx and Russell Crowe.

Both live and recorded Samuel James cherishes “the intimacy of one man screaming his heart out…a conversation between him and his audience as opposed to between band members. When I think of the best, most intimate forms of entertainment—maybe a flamenco guitar player, or a stand-up comedian, spoken word—it's one individual. There's a power there. You can't listen to Son House or Skip James and tell me that an electric ZZ Top can touch that." Based on consistent standing ovations, Samuel James clearly knows entertaining.

The recording reflects Samuel’s live performances as much as one can, but more importantly it showcases why Samuel James doesn’t consider himself a bluesman per se, but a songster and storyteller within a style of music. James is a hardworking individual steeped in the traditions of his elders and has created his own voice that speaks with clarity and pathos to a contemporary audience.

Live, Samuel James includes some older material in his set, and when playing a song created by a previous blues master he truly makes it his own. His stamp of originality is evident in every song he picks. Clearly the historical torch is being passed to him from today’s elder masters and yesterday’s originators. Does that make him authentic? Let the listener decide if that is even the question. Samuel James is the most relevant young blues artist to come our way in quite some time.

Samuel explains “Pre-war blues is much more intimate for me . . . much like a conversation. I’m not really drawn to anything contemporary because it’s not nearly as engaging.” Based on consistent standing ovations, Samuel James clearly knows engaging.

  Samuel James' Official Site
  Samuel James On MySpace