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!