Arthur James Me,Myself and I

By Karen Nugent
February 2016

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Arthur James

Me, Myself and I

Self Produced, 2014

By Karen Nugent

Editor’s note: Sometimes CDs get overlooked and-or not reviewed. This one, by New Hampshire’s Arthur James, was inadvertently placed into the “already reviewed” basket, and I just noticed the error a month or so ago. After listening to a few tracks, I’ve decided it was too good to pass over. KN

He’s based in New Hampshire, but a lot of Arthur James’ October 2014 release sounds like pure Mississippi Delta.

Me, Myself and I, as the title implies, is a solo album, his first, with just James singing, picking and sliding away, mostly acoustic but with some really killer electric slide throughout the 12 tracks.

Several of the songs, all written by James with exception of “Kumbaya” (yes, THAT one) are reminiscent of Delta bluesman, both living and passed.

On the first half of the record, Delta legend Jimmy “Duck” Holmes comes to mind, along with some early country-style Muddy Waters. His influences include Son House, Robert Johnson, Keb Mo, and Eric Bibb, but his music is described as “nouveau-retro,” sort of one foot in way-back blues and the other looking toward the future.

A difference from Delta blues is seen in the some of the deeper lyrics, which draw listeners into pondering bittersweet memories such as forgotten youth (the title of one track near the end of the disc) and driving alone on long, dark roads. But there are some familiar themes as well: “Got Me A Woman” and “What You Trying To Do.”

According to the liner notes, James has recorded as a sideman with various bands for about 25 years. He decided two years ago to do a solo album, and this gem is stripped down like a classic muscle car - creeping slowly into the back alleys of the brain.

James, who made it to the finals at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis two years ago, is able to get the listener into the heart of the songs as they were created – one man alone with his blues.

However, about halfway through the record, the music moves to the folkie side of the street. It’s pleasant enough, like something you might hear in a hip coffee shop. It’s mellow and relaxing, but still features James’ guitar dexterity and expertise. The lyrics on these tracks focus on more modern themes such as the embattled environment.

On “Waiter There’s a Bomb in My Soup, (great title) James talks about pollution. (” We’ve got nuclear waste running down the street/It’s enough to make a grown man scream/ People, people now can’t you see this is not the way it’s supposed to be.”)

The disc begins and ends with good instrumentals.

The opener, “292 Nashua St.” (a club? His address?) is an up-tempo blues gem, and the closing track, “Life,” highlights James’ mournful guitar sound – a sound that brings on life’s emotions.

He’s local so try to check him out!

www.arthurjames.org

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