Paris James

Death Letter
(Dreamvox)

The first CD from local bluesician Paris James harks back to the back-porch country blues of the 1920s, when players like Blind Blake and Blind Lemon Jefferson were finger-picking through a mix of folk, gospel hymns, and Delta blues. The sounds of spirituals and the South that dominate James' CD aren't surprising when you consider he was born inside a Florida church and had one grandfather who ran the largest black Baptist church in Florida and another who ran bootleg liquor through the backwoods. So James' songwriting isn't born of some imagined place or notions of standard song subjects within the blues genre — this is the real deal. James' style is straight-up no-frills, with only guitar for instrumentation. On "Folk Tales," James' voice takes on a mournful wail over soft slide guitar, as he tells the story of a man who wants to bring his lover back from the dead. The CD's title track, "Death Letter," is a low-key dirge that would almost sound like an old slave spiritual if it weren't for the eerie minor guitar chords reminiscent of 1940s blues picker Skip James (no relation). Other tracks, like "32-20 Blues," have more of an upbeat, boogie-woogie strut, while instrumentals like "Ride That Tide" showcase James' adroit acoustic plucking.

 
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