Paris James has something special going on. The first time I
heard his self-produced, Death Letter, it sent chills, and the
last time that happened was … well, it’s been a while. Alvin Youngblood
Hart is the only other primal blues man who does that for me on a
On “”Folk Tales,” accompanied by his superb slide guitar playing, James
sings, “The sky was black/there was a silver moon.” There is more
treachery, black night villainy and chill-generation going on in just
that lyric than some solo blues artists can muster in a whole career.
Almost a linin’ song, it strikes a chilling cord, the first of many in
this one-man masterpiece.
James doesn’t merely sing a song; he crawls in and wraps himself up in
the lyric, in the presentation and in the essence. His vocals are
haunting, rich and as expressive as emotive and stamp themselves into
the secret canals of the ears.
“Wake Up Mary” is thick with John Lee Hooker references, his version of
Son House’s often covered title piece may be the most moving to reach
these ears in a lifetime of listening, and Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See
That My Grave Is Kept Clean” receives an equally unique interpretation.
Robert Johnson (“32-20”), Willie Dixon (“I Ain’t Superstitious”), and
Roosevelt Sykes (“44 Blues”) are also done proud, pointing to James’
interpretive skills. None of the covers are going to cause a rush to the
selection changer. These are thoughtful interpretations, sometimes
re-inventions. That the original material stands its ground next to the
work of the masters speaks to the genius of Paris James.
One of the standout debut discs of the year. For more info, visit
--- Mark E. Gallo