Arthur James has finally released his much anticipated solo acoustic blues album. Me, Myself & I finds the southern New Hampshire guitarist applying his craft to meaningful original blues guitar and vocals. His voice is so hefty on this album you’d think he was seven feet tall. His guitar sounds larger than life too, due to the volumes of emotive release it offers throughout Me, Myself & I
Opening with his instrumental “292 Nashua St,” James showcases his skillful instrumental style, offering a seamless flow of acoustic guitar beauty. Sublime, each note is perfectly accented, gritty, as if each has an attitude. James alternates between softer accents and sharper ones, creating an effect that makes you feel he’s playing two guitars at once. The texture he conjures is comforting, welcoming, and warm, making you want to take this album ride with him.
James sings with the more traditional whiskey soaked voice on his “Blues, Blues, Blues,” a gutturally voiced number that features some of James’s greasiest melody lines. This one has got “real 1950s blues” stamped all over it. The traveling feel in James’s melodic line can be danced to because it’s so rhythmically sharp, even though its also melodic enough to be the second voice in this number.
“What You Tryin’ To Do” takes the listener back to an even earlier time in blues, conjuring with his acoustic guitar theme a front porch on a hot summer day in the 1930s feeling. Its vintage vocal approach and old time blues guitar strumming takes one back to a simpler, easier, more joyful time.
“Long Back Road” crawls forward with the muscular authority of a rattlesnake, pulling the listener right into its alluring rhythms. James makes the darkness feel like a universal experience. His vocal appeals to the listener with a distinct sustain mid-verse that shifts the listener’s focus back onto his message while his guitar playing technique blossoms into something more sophisticated, like something that is reaching out to you, waving you forward with warmth and assurance even though you know you should run back, as fast as you can, in the opposite direction.
James gets real hip sounding on “Ooh Yeah!” It’s a come on to the opposite sex that conjures, with its stream of shuffling, skippy notes, the swagger of a young man trying to appeal to a woman who most certainly appeals to him, especially with “that red dress on.” James makes those acoustic guitar notes snap, crackle, and pop with panache throughout his running, energetic melodic line.
“Things Ain’t No Better” takes the listener into the dark place that inspired the salvation that blues music has to offer. James employs his deeper, whiskey soaked timbre to colorfully depict the feeling he sings of. His electric guitar sounds particularly biting here, above his acoustic rhythm guitar strum, like a shark jumping above the surface to menace a frustrated fisherman. James definitely knows how to conjure the gloom of going from bad to worse while the bad is still present too. Urgency compels one to listen on, even as things take bad turns.
“Got Me A Woman” is a much more hopeful blues song. Here, the artist sings of a beautiful, reciprocated love as he explores the more celebratory joy of this music. It’s the kind of blues that makes one want to climb the highest mountain to exclaim, from the top, the blessed feeling one feels when a lifetime of emotional torture concludes with finding the right person. James makes the listener feel it on two levels, with his emotive vocal exclamations and with his assertive interval of chords. It all serves to take the listener along on his joyride.
“Drownin‘ On Dry Land“ takes the listener back into traditional blues themes, desperation, hopelessness, and impending death. James conjures the desperate cry of this song with his guttural vocal, an urgency for someone to throw him a lifeline from a whirlpool that exists only in the emotional turbulence of his life. You can picture the character this song is about, desperation and hopelessness in his eyes turning even more desperate and hopeless as time runs out. James is that good at building an image in a listeners mind through suggestion.
Meaningful, greasy blues guitar lines slink around on “Forgotten Youth,” a song James sings to his younger self. The depth of emotion the singer-songwriter plunges into during this look back are mirrored beautifully in his merciful and tender guitar lines, melodic lines that swish around the count like they’re trying to help the singer find his emotional anchor. One could lie awake nights worrying about one’s younger self, especially as one contemplates all that that youthful version of oneself had to deal with, It also forces one to ponder the grown up version and how many things could be different. James accomplishes a high level of emotional honesty in this contemplation. His vocal is so raw that you know he had to be hurting when he wrote this. His guitar work, too, conjures a plethora of colors that show all was not always good growing up.
James shows his spiritual side on the traditional prayer song, “Kumbaya,” a piece that takes James outside of himself. The singer-guitarist contemplates what is going on with another who experiences turns of desperation and hope. The listener can feel the spiritual resolve in James’s exceptionally strong vocal expression. His juicy chord progression and perky single notes also connote a tale of strength, redemption, and spiritual rejuvenation.
This singer-songwriter’s oddly but aptly titled “Waiter, There’s A Bomb In My Soup” takes the listener straight into the blues protest song. Not quite blues in its structure and melodic expression, James delivers the passion of the blues in his emotive vocal plea. He pleads for all to take note what is happening in the world. The times they are ah-changing, and they’re changing for the worse, and all the songwriter sees around him is apathy. James makes clear where his sympathies lie. He decides we are all being controlled to the point of not getting we’re controlled and not getting what is going on in the world. His song turns on a dime into a cry for freedom from our bored, apathetic way of responding to our changing world. James makes you feel his frustrated need for freedom in his intensely delivered rain of vocal phrase.
James closes out his album with “Life,” a sublimely felt blues instrumental that makes the listener feel that this singer-songwriter has finally arrived at his destination. The hurriedly played notes and the chords that punctuate them extol the beauty of being at home, physically, spiritually, and musically. Its tuneful melody makes one feel the expression and virtue of being in a good place that one needs to be in. It’s also a fitting end to an album in which much emotion has come pouring out to express the feelings one has before one has settled into a perfect peace.
James has much to be proud of here. His songs are, vocally, melodically, and rhythmically, beautiful expressions of what has been going on inside him for quite sometime. This singer-songwriter has the blues down pat. It’s a form of music that can expressed the highest highs and lowest lows of the human experience. James took it a step further with these tracks, showing he can express those human emotions all by himself, just Me, Myself & I.