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Samuel James at the Jazz Winnipeg Festival

Samuel James

Samuel James at the Jazz Winnipeg Festival, Times Change(d) Cafe, June 28 2009. Janet Shum photo.

Review - Samuel James at the 2009 Jazz Winnipeg Festival, June 28

-by Eugene Osudar/photos by Janet Shum

suit and tie
keep on sliding down
no sock
cuz Samuel
can’t find ’em
he keeps
on stomping
to that bluesy
he deploys

it’s not the blues
you understand,
he’s a

and that’s a storyteller
in song

not necessarily
about a woman
doing you wrong

could be some folklore
Oh John Henry

and Samuel James,
he’s a funny man
smacking out
the home run
and we’re 70
at the free
jazz lab

Jazz Winnipeg Festival

he’s answering questions
between the song

educating us

throwing out the big names

Son House

Booker White


Skip James

Charlie Patton

John Lee Hooker

The Mississippi(s)
Fred McDowell
John Hurt

oh yeah, Robert Johnson, too

These are the mythic ones

the songsters
tricksters too
and clownsters


Samuel James played his two shows
at the Time Changed
Sunday night
and All the names
at the festival
up to see
and feel him,

The Webers Brothers
Cookie and Corndog too
Romi Mayes
Jill Barber and
all the local musicians
who understand
there’s a mythic one
in the making
in the (Son) House
that Times Changed

we the 70
in the day time
in the R Browne
got to see
him, feel him,
laugh with him,
duel wits with him,
howl with him
and applaud him
and yes, Learn
from him.


“I’m a very rare find. A songster.
Southern American. Like
Leadbelly. A storyteller.
Songs about rivers and floods.
Today, I’m gonna run you through
the difference between a blues guy
and a songster. This Mississippi
John Hurt
song is a folk tale about a folk hero
in African-American folklore.
This is my version of his version
of John Henry.”

“I got a rainbow round my shoulder…
and when you see me
i won’t be crying, i’ll be laughing
when you see me walking,
i’ll be running and laughing.”

“Couple rules about blues. There’s the Delta
and the North Carolina. Still a touchy subject.
In North Carolina they used alternating
bass (style of guitar playing). Delta uses
slide. Carolina is ragtime and the racial
rules were a lot less strict. In Mississippi,
you couldn’t play music with a white man.
Now, Mississippi John Hurt used the
alternating bass despite being in
Mississippi! He taught himself how
to play guitar. When asked why he
didn’t play slide style, he said
that he played it the way he thought
it should be played. John Lee Hooker
had the shuffle (style, and he plays
some John Lee Hooker shuffle style).
This is in the shuffle, by a great
Canadian Jewish Bluesman,

Leonard Cohen.”

(now you gotta dig
Samuel James and his sense
of hilarious style)

Tonight Will Be Fine.

songster blues
in the
John Lee Hooker
shuffle style

L Cohen
would love you for this
brilliant version
of his song,poem.

now comes a question about the slide,
as he’s tuning his guitar

“That was a song called Tuning.
I wrote it. and people owe me a lot
of money for it.
If you see me tonight, you’ll hear
a lot
of these same jokes…Slide…
every place the Europeans colonized
they left things behind. Like the guitar.

(he pulls out a Resonator Guitar)

Now, the most beautiful art comes
from the most oppressed people.
So did the slide start as a piece of bone?
and eventually became a bottle neck?
and then this…
(holds out his store
bought slide)
now, this theory that bluesmen
didn’t leave a ten mile radius
is not true. Robert Johnson had
a car and he toured Canada
in his car. Booker White, he had
songs that he would sell to labels
in different cities under different
titles. Why? They were getting ripped
off. they didn’t know about royalties,
they just sold their songs. and used
different titles. Like Booker White’s
Parchment Farm is also known as
How Long Before I Can Change My Clothes.
John Lee Hooker had Boom Boom Boom
and the same song called Bang Bang Bang.”

now, you see about The Blues Tricksters
trying to out,trick the slickster thieves
forever and a day stealing their songs

so, there was a bluesman
traveling Hawaii
and he brought
their slide guitar
playing style idea to

“Now, blues also came out of the dance halls.
i wrote this song for my Rosa.
Wooooooooo Rosa, an instrumental
in the dance hall style. You can see it
on Youtube. And you needed
one of these (Resonator Guitars)
to play in a dance hall to be heard.
It’s essentially a speaker design,
invented by a couple of Czech brothers.”

Here Comes Nina

(oh what a songster story!)

“This is a song about a woman who tried
to kill me…
You can laugh. It wasn’t funny at the time!
Now it is. I feel it’s impolite to tell you
her name, but it’s called, Here Comes

and yes, he has us in the stitches
he surely required
to heal the wounds she inflicted,

in ragtime blues pick and spade
style. (for his shallow grave.)

“here comes Nina with the lovely hair
here comes Nina with the big brown eyes…
here comes Nina counting to ten
i forgot to do the dishes again
here comes Nina with a pick and a spade…”

“This is a flamenco guitar (his other guitar).
Not popular in Blues. I think finger style
songs sound sweeter on this kind of guitar.
Now, I want to talk about the idea of
clowning. Charlie Patton did it.
Trying to make a show out of one man
playing guitar and singing. Charlie Patton
was the first man to play the guitar
behind his head. That’s clowning.
This is a John Lee Hooker song,

The Hobo Blues,

I feel like a hobo. Traveling by myself.
I don’t always look like this. Dressed fine.
Fact is sometimes I’m drinking a coffee
and some guy plops a few coins
in my cup.”

He pulls out the Resonator
and begins clowning after a minute
of serious John Lee Hooker shuffling
Boom,Boom style
he’s turning that guitar around and around and playing
every part of it, using all parts to strum and fret
on, he’s twisted it right round
he playing it The Blues Clown Style
it’s a play thing
that Resonator
it’s playing soft and then he goes
to resonating it
john lee RocKinG hooker style/

the last song…

“I’ll play you
a little odd song.”

(he likes making unorthodox
choices of songs and artists to cover,
hence, Leonard Cohen earlier)

I’ll play you a pop musician’s song.
It’s topical.”

(and here’s where i instantly write


in my journal, cuz the Webers did it
at the Times Thursday night
Billie Jean!)

and yep…

It’s the darkest, weirdest interpretation
of Billie Jean
ever Heard


and frightening

came to my skin
in seconds and lasted minutes
the song




what a genius

Samuel James

60 minutes
of talk and laughter
answers to questions
and songster
to make us hurry
to see him later in the night

Jazz Winnipeg Festival
June 28.

Rachel Browne Theatre
June 28

About Eugene Osudar

“born, august 16, 1963. i’m 45, and yes, i’m getting too old for this. bring out the rocking chair. my first concert, november 1978, elvis costello and the attractions. i was 15. their blisteringly brilliant 65 minute set only served somebody to affirm my new direction in the musical parallel universes, new wave punk alternative, oh sanctity oh celebration (!Freedom!) college radio! i’m old, i’m used up and i’m free. i see 50something Full sets of music every month and dance most of them. and when i dance, i mean to say, I Dance and Celebrate, 2/3/4 hours a night. The Gaslight Anthem. The Boss. The Weber Brothers. The Wind Ups. i’ll dance with Los Campesinos. i’ll move to The Long Winters. The Replacements. Husker Du. The Pogues. oh elvis costello, oh Clash! i could go/go/go Gogol Bordello forever. L(eonard) Cohen. come, Dance With Me (Old 97s) wherever you may be, sincerely, eugene
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