BLUES MATTERS CD REVIEWs:
ME, MYSELF & I
A true solo album with just one musician and one instrument playing throughout, Arthur James plays predominately acoustic guitar but on two tracks he flexes his muscles and goes up a gear by playing electric, all the material is stripped back and fairly stark and while there are clear influences from the likes of Son House and Robert Johnson this is a modern refreshing album drawing from these past masters. The opening instrumental track 292 Nashua Street gets the album off to a fine start with some excellent guitar picking and it is closely followed by the best track on the album the bleak Long Black Road which brings out a good vocal from Arthur, while I previously highlighted some musical influences from the USA there is definitely a UK sixties acoustic blues feel here as well, reminiscent of the music populated by the likes of Dave Kelly & T.S. McPhee in their early careers. All but one of the twelve track are self written and there are some interesting themes covered here, none more so than on Waiter There’s a Bomb In My Soup which is a sixties style protest song covering the self destruction of the earth. I really enjoyed listening to this album which grabs your attention with its simplicity and wonderful lyrical content, a very promising debut album.
Me, Myself & I
At the risk of being called a purist or a "Blues Nazi" I do have to admit that the concept of a man, alone with a guitar, facing an audience has a tremendous appeal. Arthur James' Me, Myself & I hits that sweet spot. There are no high-tech pyrotechnics, no showboating and no computer generated effects here, just a man and his guitar. What I think I like most about this album is the fact that though I have every reason to believe he could burn up the fret board and compete with the likes of Stevie Ray or Jimi Hendrix, James sticks with a fairly simple, well-played song with no gimmicks. I have to applaud anyone with the common sense to do such a thing. Arthur James is a solid guitarist, good vocalist and better than average songwriter. This is another one of those releases I could put in the player, hit shuffle and repeat and let it play on...without danger of tiring of it quickly. Simply said, it takes guts to perform in this manner...and Arthur James does it beautifully. Superb musicianship, beautiful arrangements and a great mix of instrumentals and vocal numbers make for an album that has a bit of something for everybody. In short, this is a good piece of work. 'Nuff said! - Bill Wilson
ME, MYSELF, AND I
292 NASHUA STREET–BLUES, BLUES, BLUES–WHAT YOU TRYIN’ TO DO–LONG BLACK ROAD–OOH YEAH–THINGS AIN’T NO BETTER–GOT ME A WOMAN–DROWNIN’ ON DRY LAND–FORGOTTEN YOUTH–KUMBAYA–WAITER, THERE’S A BOMB IN MY SOUP–LIFE
As one listens to Arthur James’ latest release, “Me, Myself, And I,” you’ll notice several things. His fingerpicking is exemplary, and all the ten original songs on this set are written in the same vein as the players he’s always listened to—Son House, Bukka White and Robert Johnson, up thru Keb’ Mo’ and Eric Bibb on the contemporary scene.
Also, as Arthur created these songs, he did so with the listener in mind, to bring them directly into the song. As such, this album is predominantly acoustic and Arthur wrote all the songs, plus a sweet re-working of “Kumbaya.” What you hear is what went down in the studio, too—just Arthur, his voice, and his guitar.
The set starts with a playful instrumental, showcasing his chops and setting the tone for what’s to come, “292 Nashua Street.” “What You Tryin’ To Do” is another humorous cut about Arthur’s “girl,” who’s “got a staple in her navel!” “Ooh Yeah” and “Got Me A Woman” extoll the virtues of women he admires, either up close or from afar.
The set takes a darker, more intense turn as it enters its second half. Goin’ down that “Long Black Road,” Arthur’s “future lies in darkness,” and “bad luck and the Devil overtook me there.” “Forgotten Youth” recalls fond memories of one’s past, which are just that–memories. “Things Ain’t No Better” finds Arthur surrounded by the blues–in his house, on the TV news, and everywhere else.
Perhaps the two most intriguing cuts close the set, and served as our favorites. Arthur goes into Richie-Havens-at-Woodstock as he sings “Waiter, There’s A Bomb In My Soup” with its apocalyptic message of the consequences as man continues to destroy the Earth from within, thru nuclear waste or dropping of bombs, with the only hope being a “bomb of love.” The set closes with another instrumental, “Life,” that follows the previous song’s somber rhythm pattern.
Arthur James has long been a well-respected sideman for other players, but “Me, Myself, And I” is his own personal statement. Excellent picking and uniquely-crafted songs make this set a fine listen, indeed! Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.
ARTHUR JAMES/Me, Myself & I: A long time guitarist of the back porch ilk, James decides it's time to step out on his own to show when he can do on his own after a quarter century of doing it. He says he's influenced by the great black blues guitarists, but we hear more Bert Jansch and Fred Neil in his work than we do Robert Johnson and Keb Mo. Of course, we didn't say we didn't like it----especially since we won't be hearing much new stuff from Jansch and Neil. A solid bet for those hippies that miss the days when music was music and you could hear stuff like this coming out of every coffee house almost all the time. Check it out.
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