Samuel James tries to relive the best of blues and ragtime with this somewhat strong Delta-tinged album. The effort begins with “The ‘Here Come Nina’ Country-Ragtime Surprise”, a toe-tapping folk-blues tune that lays the groundwork for the rest of the record. But, at times, the album sounds somewhat forced, with numbers like “Sunrise Blues” being good but not great. In fact, a performer like Colin Linden seems to pull off similar material a bit better. The first hint that this might end up being an enjoyable listen is the slide-guitar work found on “Big Black Ben”, which brings to mind an acoustic George Thorogood. The same rings true for the intricate, Page-ish “Wooooooo Rosa”. However, the record often seems to find itself in the same rut, with James rarely mixing things up during “Sugar Smallhouse and the Legend of the Wandering Siren Cactus”. (Don’t ask me, I don’t know what the hell it means either.) While highlights are few and fleeting, “Love & Mumbly-Peg” is one of the sonic beacons here.
// Notes from the Road
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