Steve James

Art & Grit

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James' first album was a solo effort; his second added a small combo. Art and Grit, his third, is a virtual celebration of acoustic string instruments. The Austin "jug band" of American Primitive -- James, Danny Barnes, Mark Rubin, and Gary Primich -- reunites on three cuts and forms the nucleus of three others. Guitar virtuoso Rob Brozman and Asleep at the Wheel's Cindy Cashdollar make guest appearances, and all told there are no fewer than eleven different instrument lineups on the disc, with guitars of many types (standard, slide, Hawaiian, and tenor), banjos (6- and 4-string), and mandolins presented solo and in various combinations. Most memorable cuts are James' delightfully archaic banjo rendition of the century-old "Buddy Bolden's Blues" and the joyfully clanging triple guitar attack on "Downbound Train" (an obscure Chuck Berry album cut, based on an old temperance song). Recording quality is exceptionally vivid, capturing the distinctive timbre of each instrument and making Art and Grit an old-timey blues lovers' delight.

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