James Solberg is undoubtedly one of the top blues guitarists in America today, which he proved once again Friday night at Brewbaker's. Starting with his snarling, ringing guitar instrumental and continuing right through his single, long set he demonstrated how a single guitarist can get an incredible amount of sound out of a single instrument. After the intro, Solberg gave the crowd all his passion in his vocals and his playing on "LA Blues," his tribute to the late, great Luther Allison who was his long time band mate. This is a very moving song that never ceases to affect blues fans that remember the great blues of Luther and his all too sudden death.
James performed a number of songs off his most recent CD, The Hand Your Dealt. The title song is a powerful, soulful, and bittersweet song about making the most of what you have, while making a few mistakes along the way. James played some great, ringing and repeating chords while singing in his own narrative, passionate style. Some times you get the feeling that as Solberg plays and moves about on stage with so much feeling and producing such rich, full sound that his Gibson has a mind of its own and that he's riding it for all it's worth. Chords seem to ripple off his guitar and wrap into each other, producing a unique blues sound that is definitely his own.
"Every Day I Learn Something New" is an up-tempo song where Solberg sings with emotion about life and learning new lessons every day while playing slower fills within the faster bass beat. In his dress, delivery, and movement on stage Solberg exudes hip blues style. The climax of the show for me was "Give Me One More Chance." This up-tempo song had Solberg picking fast, his guitar giving off alternately growling and ringing chords as he sang with passion.
The band did a good job of changing tempos, interspersing slower songs among the faster numbers. One of the former, towards the end of the show, was "I've Lost My Way." Starting out as a slow, blues grinder, the song built to a rousing, up-tempo finish as Solberg pleadingly sang for his baby to "please shine your light on me." Solberg was backed by experienced musicians: Larry Burns on B-3, John Lindberg on bass and back-up vocals, and Michael "Taco" Velasquez keeping things moving on drums. The James Solberg band gave a great performance which was enthusiastically received by the crowd through their getting up to dance and cheer. Solberg indicated he should have a new CD ready for release in September. Here's hoping that the band makes time to stop by the Twin Cities for a CD release party!
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