Seth James – Good Life
Cherry Bomb Records
CD: 12 Songs, 41 Minutes
Styles: Soul Blues, Roots Rock, Americana
Halloween may be over, but a few blue devils have stuck around on the cover art of Seth James’ Good Life. Instead of torturing souls in the bowels of you-know-where, they’re enjoying Texas pastimes: grilling, making and drinking pink lemonade (?) and reveling under the smiling moon. Old Nick himself has been left out of the fun. He’s the only one who’s crying, for good reason. He brings misery, but the blues brings joy and fellowship with good friends. Seth proves this on twelve terrific tracks, a mixture of pure blues, soul, roots rock and Americana. If you like Delbert McClinton, with whom he’s shared the stage, this CD lies right up your alley. He’s also performed with Buddy Guy, Little Feat, Tab Benoit, Lee Roy Parnell and other genre heroes.
“I never made the decision to be a musician,” James insists. “I just started doing what I loved, and it got out of hand. I’ve been doing it ever since.” Turns out that music’s in his blood. Born in Fort Worth and raised in the ranch country of West Texas, he comes from a family that knows the rewards of hard work and ambition. His grandfather was a honky-tonk piano player who performed as Tooter Boatman and the Chaparrals in clubs, juke joints and roadhouses in the ‘40s and ‘50s. His other grandfather was a Texas Ranger. His father, Tom Moorhouse, founded the Moorhouse Ranch and imbued Seth with values spawned from western tradition.
Performing along with our leading man on vocals and guitar are Bob Britt on rhythm and slide guitar, Lynn Williams on drums, Kevin McKendree on keys and background vox, Yates McKendree on lead guitar for track six, Steve Mackey on bass, Wendy Moten on background vox, Jim Hoke on saxophone, horns and horn arrangements, Roy Agee on trombone, and Vinnie Ciesielski on trumpet.
Good Life is full of songs that teach you how to live it, including the opener “Brother,” “That’s How You Do It,” and the title track. The gist? Accept help from others on your journey, keep your nose to the grindstone, and “get your head on straight; get your ducks in a row.” All three are catchy without being cloying, truthful without being preachy. They also bring nice dashes of soul and funk to contemporary blues-rock style. Then come Frankie Miller’s “Little Angel,” tastefully performed with crooning by Mr. James, and Delbert McClinton’s “Ain’t Whatcha Eat But How You Chew It.” Although they’re covers, they’re great renditions.
Now let’s talk about two heavy hitters. “I’m Coming Home” and “Third Generation” address how family values get diluted as fathers beget sons and grandsons. The former is the album’s oldest entry, and one of the most poignant. “We [Bob McKendree and I] wrote it almost 10 years ago,” Seth recalls. “Very often, they [later descendants] who inherit family ranches] squabble and argue and ultimately sell off what it took generations to build.” The latter is even more pointed: “First generation breaks their back. Second one makes the money. Third one throws it all away, saying ‘Everybody’s fault but mine.’” Everything’s at its grittiest: vocals, lyrics, instrumentation. Wendy Moten’s harmonies are hard-edged, too. Last but not least comes “I Am the Storm,” an acoustic beauty to die for. “I was born in a hurricane. Mama died in the pouring rain. Howling wind in my bones. When the lightning strikes, I moan. Oh, I am the storm.”
Good Life brings Texas blues home with style!