Review of A Guitar Player, A Bassist & A Drummer Walk Into A Studio - By Bill Copeland
By Bill Copeland on August 20, 2022
Arthur James has the old soul of a blues man. Arthur James plays numerous kinds of blues licks while slathering the lyrics of his blues originals with his hearty New England rasp. His recent release of his Arthur James & Northbound album A Guitar Player, A Bassist & A Drummer Walk Into A Studio is a must have for any local area blues fan. It offers 18 remixed and remastered versions of songs from his previous Arthur James album.
Opening instrumental track “Art’s Thang” shows the chemistry Arthur James had with his bassist Gil Rand and whichever drummer he is using from his coterie of skin pounders. Arthur James picks of a piercing lead guitar line, one that moves in artful, skillful directions and smacking as hard as his rhythm section as they punctuate his phrase with tight aplomb.
Another Arthur James instrumental, “Rollin’” finds the New Hampshire legendary blues man paying out another tasty line. Here, Arthur James makes his guitar phrase move around with the nervous energy of fish just reeled out of the stream. Snappy notes force his rhythm section to also hit hard and fast and their participation ups the ante in this wily piece.
Arthur James’s “Blues Blues Blues” finds the guitar man playing a line with a lot of snap, crackle, and pop. His guitar work and his rhythm section keep this one in the pocket, tight, disciplined, and slick, especially when Arthur James picks off a higher line, like his guitar is singing when he plays it rapidly. Arthur James sings this one with his familiar rasp, a bit rough, a bit dark, always loaded with more feeling than even his music conveys.
“Things Ain’t No Better” marches to the beat of its own drum. Arthur James lays out a solid rocking chair blues guitar chord progression. A grueling guitar rings out pure and true, meeting the Arthur James’ vocal rasp, two sounds with musical density, gravitas, especially when they meet. Arthur James also, in this same piece, pays out a rippling guitar phase, one that darts out, doubles back, then springs forward again with the momentum of something wild that just cannot be contained.
“Long Black Road,” off of his album by the same title, takes things down low, slows down, lets Arthur James show how he can sprawl out, his rasp stretching, his guitar playing a handy interval of notes that circle soulfully, his rhythm section keeping it at once soulful and stationary. It’s a deep feeling number.
Arthur James & Northbound do a rockabilly, country two step shuffle combo on “I Get The Blue Every Time I Think About You.” The trio hopscotches through a myriad of tricky twists and turns, the guitar high pitched one moment, thick and crunchy with chords the next. It’s a song chock full of good bits.
Going bumpy, speedy with “That Ain’t Right,” Arthur James & Northbound whip out a lot of fine moments. Arthur James spins his brisk, brittle lead guitar line around several handfuls of good drum fills and some bopping low end notes. It’s as if the guitar bits jump up and down with the rhythm section while simultaneously leading it.
Titled “August 27, 1990,” Arthur James sings and plays an ode to someone he had lost on that date. Arthur James’ dark rasp gets darker here, slight variations in his repetitions keep one glued to see where he goes with this tribute. He presses out some pretty, tender highs, a guitar phrase that sounds like it’s beautifully and mournfully crying its grief.
If, by this point in the album, you like Arthur James’s brisk, freewheeling, high riding blues guitar, you’re gonna love “Ooh Yeah.” It’s a jumping beans scramble to get to the finish line. Arthur James presses out flinty, restless notes that force his rhythm guys to keep up, and thankfully, they do. The breathtaking pace of the guitar notes escaping confinement from the fretboard make this one noteworthy.
Arthur James’s Mississippi Delta blues inspired “Forgotten Youth” moves like gentle tumble weed, easy going, a ball of acoustic slide notes and sturdy vocal rasp. The tone and motion of this tune make the lyrical message of lost time come to a personal, three dimensional life.
“Drownin’ On Dry Land,” title track from that previous Arthur James release, rocking chairs over a knobby groove. Arthur James’ steady vocal assertion keeps the song even as his flinty licks perk with authentic old time tone as they dance around a motivational groove. The chemistry between guitar and rhythm section becomes hypnotic, a repetition of notes that become deeper and pulpier as the song progresses.
Speaking of flinty guitar licks and rocking chair grooves, the shuffle beat to “Things Ain’t No Better” keeps the listener’s head bopping while awaiting the Arthur James guitar break. Here, Arthur James grinds out a soul piercing guitar phrase, one that stir emotions as it grows wider in timbre and expression.
Despite the unwieldy title, “I Get The Blues Every Time I Think About You,” is a busy rockabilly joyride. One can picture Arthur James having the time of his life, singing rapidly into a Shure microphone while letting loose his run of raw, punchy licks. The song builds up from how its drummer keeps spanking it forward with an extra hard fill about three quarters way into each meter.
“I’m Mad” is one of those character songs that can’t be beat. Arthur James penned lyrics capture the wild release of frustration he needs after his woman leaves him. His growling vocal and his whipcord guitar line combine to make this an action packed song. It also highlights how well Arthur James has studied blues idioms, especially 1950s blues, to create this seemingly simple expression while buttressing it with snake bit guitar work.
“Coy Roy,” originally on the Arthur James Long Black Road album, moves to a rapid groove, drum fills that propel this guitarist to whip out speedy licks that move in dizzying spirals. This song shows Arthur James to be the Evil Knievel of blues guitar, reckless pacing that the maestro manages to keep in line with his rhythm section.
“C-Spot” moves to a jazzy groove, a beat that cruises just above mid tempo pace. Over that sublime pacing, Arthur James presses out some of his most tasteful licks. It’s Arthur James’s restraint that powers this one. He keeps his edge and skills just below the surface, allowing himself room to skate around prettily, a line that dances with a heartfelt eloquence.
Arthur James and his boys have fun with an alternate take of “Art’s Thang,” the track which opened this album. It’s more of the same fun with maybe a little more shine in the Arthur James guitar tone. The album closes with “Sigh,” which is simply Arthur James expressing some blues exaltation.
Arthur James has much to be proud of with this remix and remaster of his blues originals from previous albums. Mixed and mastered by Anthony Cimino at Mojo studios, this album gives a fresh, revitalized sound to particularly well crafted blues. With nerve damage making it less likely Arthur James will return to playing his electric guitars, A Guitar Player, A Bassist, & A Drummer Walk Into A Studio is a must have. Throw in bass player Gil Rand and drummers Johann Haas, Peter Johnson, and Anonymous and you have an offering of hot, smoky blues you just can’t ignore.
Review of Hey ... I'm Still Here By AJ Wachtel
'Hey.....I'm Still Here'
This is the second solo release of Arthur's, and it is just him on guitar, vocals, barking & howlin', shaker, tambourine, congas and foot stomping. He adds Barson's bass on five of the songs too. His first album, 'Me, Myself & I,' showcased his songwriting skills, and this music is a combo of fan favorites broken into three sections by his own original instrumental tunes; the opener 'Rollin',' 'Susan's Song,' and 'In My Room.' All uptempo and featuring his lightning licks and righteous riffs. This cat can play! The coffee house feel is evident everywhere. Listen to his covers of: the '80's Modern English cut 'I Melt With You,' Muddy's 'Rock Me, Baby,' Tim Hardin's '60's folk protest song 'If I Were A Carpenter,' Dylan's 'Maggie's Farm;' and his stupendous slide guitar on Robert Johnson's 'Ramblin' On My Mind' and 'If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day,' and Willie Dixon's 'Lil' Red Rooster.' They all sound like he's playing his guitar ten feet away from you. Very clear, very clean and very good. This Bradford, N.H. native also produced this gem and I really dig his gravelly voiced singing which adds a touch of authenticity to his covers; and makes them all his own. Arthur James finds the blues in everything he plays. Here, a lot of music means a lot of fun!
Review of Hey ...I'm Still Here by Don Crow
HEY…I’M STILL HERE
ROLLIN–I MELT WITH YOU–ANGEL FROM MONTGOMERY–IF I WERE A CARPENTER–IN MY ROOM–WILL THE CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN–IF I HAD POSSESSION OVER JUDGMENT DAY–DRIFTIN BLUES–ROCK ME BABY–BIG ROAD BLUES–PARCHMAN FARM–SPOONFUL–LITTLE RED ROOSTER–GOOD MORNIN BLUES–RAMBLIN ON MY MIND–MAGGIE’S FARM–TRIMMED AND BURNING–SUSAN’S SONG
New Hampshire bluesman Arthur James has been playin’ these blues for a mighty long time now, and never fails to keep his audiences not only entertained, but on their collective toes as well, introducing nuances and subtleties throughout his material that sometimes veers from the norm. For his last go-round, “Me.Myself, And I,” Arthur concentrated more on his original material, but this time, he’s taken a mix of eighteen of his favorites, a few originals, some fan favorites, as well as some of the best-known songs in all of the blues’ canon and turned it into “Hey…I’m Still Here.”
There are so many highlights, we’ll start with one of our favorites. His vocal takes on a Dylan-esque timbre in a cool read of ol’ Bobby Zimmerman’s “Down On Maggie’s Farm.” “Rock Me Baby” bristles with the spark of “how good Arthur James can feel,” when “yo’ back ain’t got no bone!” Arthur hits the upper register of his range as he begins Robert Johnson’s iconic “Ramblin’ On My Mind,” and sings like a man running from a Hellhound on “If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day.”
We had two additional favorites. He puts an old-time Delta spin on Modern English’s 1982 hit, “I Melt With You,” turning it into a bluesy tour-de-force. He also uses a throaty vocal delivery to its fullest on that tale of “if dreams were lightning and thunder was desire,” that “Angel From Montgomery.”
Arthur James uses only his voice and guitar to convey some of the deepest and most primitive blues this side of Clarksdale, and wants everybody to know, “Hey…I’m Still Here!” Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.
Review of Hey ...I'm Still Here - Billy Copeland - 4/2/2019
Review from AJ Wachtel from the Noise
Me, Myself & I
It’s taken this great New Hampshire guitarist 25 years to do a solo acoustic release without his band, and it’s well worth the wait. Arthur wrote all the songs except for one and his m.o. is to play a ripping guitar intro to set the mood and the groove of the song and it really works well. Check out “Long Black Road” the traditional blues ballad, “Drownin’ On Dryland,” “Forgotten Youth,” the killer slide guitar, “Waiter There’s A Fly In My Soup,” and the closer “Life.” A great guitar riff sets the groove and then James’ incredible guitar playing takes over. I really dig the rock ’n’ roll chug chug feel of “Blues, Blues, Blues” and “Things Ain’t No Better.” Both are powerful. Arthur’s good voice is best heard on “Got Me A Woman,” a traditional blues ballad. His acoustic country guitar finger picking is really cool on the opener “292 Nashua Street,” an uptempo instrumental where James has a lot of fun showing off. An interesting cover of the ’60s public domain folk song “Kumbaya” is present where he changes it from a folk ballad to a country blues gem. You can hear the older influences of Son House, Robert Johnson and John Lee Hooker along with modern influences of Keb Mo and Eric Bibb. Aurthur James music has been called “Nouveau Retro” and I can’t argue with that. Give it a listen. (A.J. Wachtel)
Review from La Hora Del Blues
Después de grabar como músico de sesión con infinidad de grupos y solistas y de participar también en un montón de proyectos de otros artistas, ahora Arthur James ha considerado que era el momento oportuno de realizar un álbum bajo su propio nombre para mostrar al mundo las canciones tal como son escritas y concebidas, es decir, un hombre en soledad llevando a sus espaldas todos sus blues, su vida y sus miserias. En todas ellas Arthur James rinde homenaje a sus héroes que van desde Son House, Robert Johnson o John Lee Hooker hasta otros bluesmen mas modernos como Keb Mo o Eric Bibb. Doce canciones propias donde Arthur se desnuda musicalmente hablando, para abordar con honestidad y legitimidad su faceta más intima y verdadera, para así poder demostrarnos que una buena canción no necesita ser vestida con trajes elegantes y llenos de ornamentos para llegar a lo más profundo de las entrañas de cualquier aficionado, pues basta solamente el desgarrador quejido y lamento de un blues crudo pero robusto. MUY BUENO. After recording as a studio musician for lots of groups and solo artists as well as participating in different projects by other musicians, now Arthur James has decided it was the right time to do a solo album to show the world a bunch of songs as they are conceived and written, that is to say, a man in solitude with all his blues, his life and miseries on his back. In all cuts included Arthur James pays tribute to his deeply admired heroes from Son House, Robert Johnson or John Lee Hooker to other most actual bluesmen like Keb Mo or Eric Bibb. Twelve own songs where Arthur musically undresses himself, to honestly display his most inner and real facet and in this way prove that a good song does not need to be dressed in elegant sophisticated suits to hit the heart of any music lover and there is enough with the ripper moan of a raw but, at the same time, strong blues. GREAT.
Review from Blues Blast Magazine
Arthur James - Me, Myself and I
CD: 12 Songs; 38:24 Minutes
Styles: Solo Acoustic and Electric Blues
Once upon a time, publishing was an entirely corporate affair. Authors needed well-respected “houses”, such as Random House and Harper and Row. Artists rejoiced when their work was auctioned at Sotheby’s, and profiled in pristine museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Blues musicians, flocked to Chess Records in hopes of getting a recording contract. The primary question in all the above cases is this: “Will I make the cut?” The standards to be met were those of seasoned executives, not the performers themselves. Now, with the advent of the new millennium, this paradigm has been flipped on its head. Certainly, record companies hold the lead in terms of promoting and marketing musicians, but they are no longer the only option. In the case of self-publishing, who sets the standard for excellence? Me, Myself, and I – no more “boss” or “middleman”. Artists and performers make their own rules, choosing when and where to break them. New Hampshire’s Arthur James demonstrates this on his sophomore album, released in 2014.
No one else performs along with Arthur here. Only he and his guitar stand poised on the brink of acoustic blues stardom, with a touch of electric shredding for musical color. Blues purists be warned: Me, Myself and I is no Eric Clapton: Unplugged. For starters, no one else can sing like “Slowhand”, but James mostly talk-sings through eleven original songs and a traditional arrangement of “Kumbaya” (on a blues album?!). Secondly, his acoustic talent is muffled by a few repetitious grooves and riffs that don’t quite fit in certain sections of his songs (see below).
With those things said, James has a significant amount of blues potential. This shows on the two instrumental tracks on his latest CD, which are “292 Nashua St.” and “Life”. They are the first and final songs, resembling two bookends that encompass the world of the tunes in the middle. When songs have no words, listeners surrender to their feelings, unencumbered by lyrics. Arthur realizes this keenly, and uses this knowledge to great advantage. His songwriting skills range from serviceable to searing, especially on track eleven, “Waiter, There’s a Bomb in my Soup” (yes, that’s the actual title, and it’s one never to be forgotten). Neither is its message:
Track 11: “Waiter, There’s a Bomb in my Soup” – “Got fish that are dying in this stream. 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, supposed to be…I know that you don’t care [ominous, jarring riff: do-do-do-do-do], but you will.” It’s as if James is cursing, with his guitar, at those who are apathetic about pollution. On the other hand, maybe that riff will wake some of them up to Mother Earth’s plight. Is this a blues song? Not in a traditional-rhythm sense, but in a thematic sense. Check out the fast-paced and frenetic outro.
Arthur James’ newest album is meant for Me, Myself, and I, and you too, acoustic fans!
Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 35 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.
Review from Blues Matters
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.
Review from Bill Wilson
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
Review from Sheryl & Don Crow - Nashville Blues Society
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.
Review from Chris Spector
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.
Review for Worcester Magazine 6/4/15
Review for Worcester Magazine Written by Joshua Lyford · 06/04/2015
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CD review of Me, Myself & I by Miss Ella Sister To The Blues
Me, Myself, and I
This is a long awaited solo CD from Arthur James, formerly known as Arthur James and Northbound when I met him at the International Blues Challenge in 2010. I promoted his CD Drownin’ On Dry Land which received a considerable amount of Blues radio station play.
This was a real treat for me when I received this CD. I began listening to the music and could not put it away. This is such a rich mixture of Delta Blues and Piedmont style of guitar playing. It gets you back to the deep style of Blues – a very nice mixture.
Although I am not a fan of acoustical solos, track one 292 Nashua St. opens the way for what this CD will bring to you. All but one of the songs are written and performed by Arthur, hence the CD title. This is a self-produced CD and a fine job at that. You can read how he accomplished this by purchasing the CD and reading the inside cover. Listen to his unique style for yourself.
The only cover is track 10 Kumbaya, which is a rich cover, and displays the octaves of which his voice is capable and has matured since the first time I listened to his talent.
This multi-talented artist takes you from his Martin “Ellipse” to a self-designed “Stryzepcaster” he calls “Pinky” assembled by his friend Drave Stryzepa, then hand painted by his wife Susan. I can’t wait to see that one. To his guitar abilities, add that he is an excellent drummer, using a “lobster claw” grip which makes the sticks come to life - I have seen him do it live.
His first guitar was on loan from his mother Audrey who taught him a few chords and he took off from there. His father Ed bought him his first set of drums at a yard sale. The fact his father is a drummer and harmonica player may have influenced the purchase.
He listened to “popular” music of the sixties, which he felt (rightfully so) came from the Blues. In his mid-teens, he decided the Blues was where his soul and style belonged - Thank you Arthur!
He credits many influences from great Blues artists such as John Lee Hooker, Robert Johnson, and Mississippi John Hurt. His Piedmont style brings to my mind Little Joe McLerran.
Although he admires many artists, he strives to create a style of his own. He certainly achieves that with Me, Myself, and I. Check out his website www.arthurjames.org to learn how to purchase and download this CD.
Sister To The Blues