Classic Old-school Lowdown

Feb 23, 2000 at 12:00 am

32 Blues just keeps kickin’ out the good stuff.

Fans of that old-style acoustic blues sound will get some deep chills listening to this one. The way James approaches the slide, nearly making the guitar cry out, while integrating some serious string shaking and bending at just the right moment, lets the listener know that a master is at work.

The tunes themselves are nothing more than the standard I-IV-V blues chord progression numbers, so don’t come looking for the fancy innovative stuff on this one. Come listening for the way the man hugs the form like a racecar hugs the road. James doesn’t play the blues, he feels them. The audible difference is that James doesn’t force himself on the blues, trying to make the form fit what he wants to say. Instead, the blues flows naturally from who the man is, like water, telling him what to say and how.

Born near the turn of the century in Somerville, Tenn., James left home in his early teens to pursue his career, eventually winding up in Chicago to work with the likes of Lonnie Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy, Elmore James and Sonny Boy Williamson.

You’d expect anybody this deeply immersed in the blues to deliver when it counts. Homesick James does.