Anyone who doesn't know who James Solberg is, needs to pick up a copy of the Blues For Dummies book immediately. He began his career 3 decades ago, touring with a list of bands that reads like a who's who of the blues. Most recently he was the bandleader for the late Luther Allison. In both '97 and '98 the James Solberg Band received a Handy Award for the Blues Band of the Year. Solberg's talent is broad. In addition to being a fiery guitar player, he has produced CDs for many bands and writes songs prolifically.
The CD's cover features the Tarot card of death indicating that Solberg may still be grieving the loss of Allison. However; the Art Tipaldi written liner notes clarify the card symbolizes transition, renewal and rebirth. These words perfectly describe the CD's musical content.
It begins with the boogie blues rock of "Build You A Castle" where James gets to jamming like he ain't going to stop for the rest of the CD. A strong baseball park organ is prominent on Louis Jordan's "Buzz Me". Soul, both lyrically and musically, come pouring out on the title track. Here James sings "a life of pain is all I've known" while making his guitar feel the pain by pushing its strings to their limit. "What's Comin' Down" combusts with a flurry of furious rocking guitar notes plus a heavy funky bass groove providing clear images of Memphis.
James Solberg is supported by a stellar band of Memphis-based musicians and backing vocalists on this CD. The lively and joyful backing vocals of Jaqueline Johnson, Jacquelyn Reddick, William Brown and Bertram Brown make the Gospel Hummingbirds song "I'm Goin' Home" shine. The same ladies add an extra dimension and complement James' raw but melodic vocals on the Bobby Bland classic "Members Only". Solberg shares the vocals and guitar solos with Luther Allison on a 1994 out-take called "Still Called The Blues". Fans of blues guitar will obviously enjoy this slower solid blues tune featuring 3rd guitarist Charlie Bingham.
6 Solberg originals are included on this 50 minute, 12 track, 4th solo effort from James and his 2nd for Ruf. It was produced by the extraordinary Jim Gaines. It is laced with the clear and precise James Solberg guitar solos that we have come to expect. A more confident guitarist than vocalist, James' voice eventually grows on you and is best suited on the soul numbers. This album is chalk full of R&B, gospel, soul and blues proving Solberg is highly capable of tackling various genres.
For CDs contact: Ruf America, Kenilworth, NJ, Ira Leslie (908) 653-9700; for booking contact Jay Reil (847) 272-0202; for publicity contact Alexandra Greenberg (323) 852-9444
This review is copyright © 2001 by Tim Holek, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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