PORTLAND, Maine — There are dedicated folk that spend their life steeped in one subject and become expert on it. Sometimes it presents itself as a collection, maybe you know someone who has 57 typewriters and can tell you the history of Olympia & Royal like a server explains the meal you're about to eat. Samuel James doesn't just possess a font of information in regards to the blues and American Roots music, he is the information. Undecided if he chose this life or if it chose him, and it doesn't really matter, just pay attention to his music.
He plays the guitar like an extension of himself. Playing so many notes simultaneously you wonder if he's got extra digits. But you can't just sit in awe of his playing, there just isn't any pretense about him. He's not out to wow you with his skills on the ax, he's telling you a story. And it doesn't matter if the story was his to tell in the first place. He delivers the traditional Midnight Special that Leadbelly brought to popular awareness early in the 20th century & then Creedence made sure everyone heard it. Sam takes it from both of them and turns it into a lullaby, a song you want to sign, forever. Sam takes possession of it and you share a moment with him as he tells you about it. It doesn't matter who wrote it, Sam takes hold. A Leonard Cohen song never sounded so good as when Sam plays it.
But don't take my word for it. You can hear Samuel James at The Johnson Theater in Gardener on Friday, February 22.