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Samuel James -- For Rosa, Maeve and Noreen (NorthernBlues Music)

Samuel James – For Rosa, Maeve And Noreen (NorthernBlues Music).

I reviewed Samuel James’ first album and proclaimed it to be one of the best debuts that I have heard so when his new release fell through my letterbox I wondered how he was going to deal with the difficult second album. Bigger, Blacker Ben opens that difficult second album. He’s certainly maintained his guitar playing standard and his knack for being a sublime storyteller is still there too. Cryin’ Blind shows a man out of his time yet strangely contemporary. He’s not trying to be a 1930s Delta bluesman but he could fit in there very well. His laconic delivery is beautiful on this more traditional song. Joe Fletcher’s Blues is slightly more up-tempo and is another gentle track. A Sugar Smallhouse Valentine continues the slightly quicker pace as James revisits a character from his first album. A good country blues. I’ll Break Your Promise is intimate and if you are looking for fireworks then Samuel James is not your man. However, if finely crafted tunes and expert playing such as Rosa’s Sweet Lil’ Love Song is more your bag then come on down. With the correct backing I can see Samuel James doing the same for acoustic blues that Joe Bonamassa has done for the electric genre. Darlin’ Maeve is again a bit more up-tempo but also goes to confirm that James doesn’t really conform too often.

The prize for pun of the year has to go to I’ve Haddock Up To Here. This easy going country blues is played in such a way that makes you believe that you could pick up a guitar and join in. This is one of James’ qualities – he makes everything sound so easy. He turns to the banjo for the rambling, stomping superb Miss Noreen. Trouble On Congress Street Rag is an instrumental that showcases his not inconsiderable finger picking talent. He varies the tempo well and the guitar is reminiscent of a train at times. John Ross Said is low key and moody, the opposite of many of the others on the album. The mood doesn’t hide the consummate storytelling however. Those who bought his first album will know his propensity for a long title and The Waters Always Changing But The River… is the latest in that line. This is his strongest vocal performance so far. Wooden Tombstone will have you making sure that the pills and razor blades are out of arms reach. This is simple in its execution with only his voice and foot taps present – superb! The ambling country blues of Path Of Ashes finishes things off well. Difficult second album? Done!

Listen to Northern Blues player here

David Blue.

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