There are those who keep the tradition of Delta and country blues from the 20s and 30s alive by reverentially reproducing the music. They should be lauded for providing a very real and valuable service. However, it is the exceedingly rare blues musician who can take the most classic of blues genres and bring it forward kicking and screaming into the 21st century, in the process respecting and honoring the form while making the content relative to modern times.
With And for the Dark Road Ahead (Northernblues), his fourth release, singer/songwriter/guitarist Samuel James has broken new ground, setting the bar high for his peers and anyone else brave enough to follow in his tracks. The 12 original songs and one unexpected cover contain his virtuoso fingerstyle guitar and unparalleled literate lyrics in a monumental musical statement. The effect of his music is made all the more powerful by the stark, low volume arrangements that cut like a scythe through the drama of his commanding, yet restrained vocals and the dynamics of his various guitar accompaniments. From the spoken word version of the two-part ”The Execution of Big Black Ben,” with the lines, “Big, black Ben had long retired from his chosen vocation, from his very special brand of promoting miscegenation” to the existential blues of ”Camus”, James has traveled to the heart of darkness and emerged with welcome catharsis for a troubled world. His startling interpretation of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” into a blues parable is nothing short of amazing.
Samuel James in one large leap for mankind has created a work of breathtaking art for the ages that satisfies on proud, profane and spiritual levels. Get it now, experience the transforming magic of his blues and help spread the word for the benefit of all.
2005 KBA winner in Journalism
released 18 September 2012
Produced by David Travers-Smith.
Recorded, mixed and mastered by David Travers-Smith at Found Sound, Toronto.
All songs written and performed by Samuel James except for Track 6 written by Bernie Taupin and Elton John - Dick James Music, Inc.
Art direction, design, photo manipulation and layout by A Man Called Wrycraft www.wrycraft.com
Original Photos by Jon Reece