Portland singer/songwriter James Low spins stirring, often pensive country- and pop-inflected narratives that warrant comparison to immediate predecessors like Richard Buckner, while bearing the unmistakable influence of such vaunted troubadours as Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. Low released his debut album, Mexiquita, in 2000. He was raised in the Eastern Oregon timber town of John Day. His grandfather and father were songwriters as well, having penned show tunes and folk songs, respectively. Low first began playing music in public while a student at the since-defunct, Quaker-affiliated Friends World College in New York City, and had the good fortune of studying music theory under Ann Ruckert, who had previously mentored Suzanne Vega and Victoria Williams. (And Low acknowledges Williams' influence on his songwriting.) In 1995, Low returned to Oregon with the idea of turning away from music and studying journalism. Nevertheless, the move prompted his creative juices and he woodshedded for about a year, compiling songs. A meeting with Portland, OR songwriter Nancy Hess provided a turning point, as she produced Low's 2000 debut, and introduced him to the players in his eventual band. Low's sophomore effort, the more fully realized Blackheart, came after a year or so of honing the tunes with his five-piece band at the Laurelthirst Pub, a de facto headquarters for Portland's Americana scene. Hess once again produced, this time sharing the duties with Matt Bodreau.
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