For two nights last fall Paul James was a guest guitarist on Bob Dylan's NeverEnding Tour. He's been onstage with Bob before...usually for a one-song appearance on a few occasions, though he did do 4 songs in Buffalo in 1999. This time he replaced a guitarist from Dylan's Cowboy Band for 5 songs. Those were the 10 most enjoyable songs I've heard from Bob's stage since Freddy Koella left the tour in 2004. He absolutely lit a spark under the band.
Too bad that experiment ended.
On the upside, James graces the stage at the Silver Dollar Room on a regular basis. This past weekend he held a party for all the ladies and my better-half and I were treated to an enjoyable evening of blues and rock.
He's a Canadian blues icon...which is not unlike being the best hockey player in Argentina...it doesn't get you a lot of press. He's backed the likes of Willie DeVille and Bo Diddley, garnered the respect of John Hammond and Bob Dylan, so ain't no one here going to question his credentials.
Had a moment to chat with him before the show and during the break in sets. He seemed genuinely humbled by my observations of his effect on Dylan's band. Extra interested in the Freddy Koella note as he asked if I knew what he was up to these days. Seems he worked with him at Montreaux in 1992. Small blue world, I guess.
James brings a lot of energy to the stage. He has a preferred move of playing the guitar behind his head while doing a dervish across the stage. Had he done this just once during the fall Dylan stand he'd be a legend in that online community.
During a 9 minute version of Nadine he ventured into the crowd, made his way to the bar, drank a beer while playing with one hand and closed with a bottle-neck slide exhibition. (It was while performing this stunt at the Nag's Head Tavern in 1986 that he found himself beside Bob Dylan...who joined him onstage. ) A crowd pleaser. Can't be a much higher accolade for a musician.
Here's the set list and some mp3 samples:
Track 01 Mean and Evil (Elmore James)
Track 02 Pickin' the Blues (Inst, Elmore James)
Track 03 Gotta Gimme Me Some Of It (Paul James)
Track 04 The Last Clean Shirt (Leiber/Stoller)
Track 05 Up On The Roof (Goffin/King)
Track 06 Good Old Rock N Roll (Paul James)
Track 07 The Blues Walk In (Paul James)
Track 08 Oh ! Pretty Woman (Roy Orbison)
Track 09 Around and Around (Chuck Berry)
Track 10 Lost in the Blues (Paul James)
Ben E King Medley
Track 11 Stand By Me (Leiber/Stoller)/Save the Last Dance (Pomus/Shuman)/Under the Boardwalk (Young/Resnick)
Track 12 Little Girl (Paul James)
Track 13 Nadine (Chuck Berry)
Track 14 Instr Outro/Band Intro
Track 01 Suzette (Paul James)
Track 02 Carol (Chuck Berry)
Everley Bros Medley w/ guest backing vocals from Sweet Sue(T3,4,5)
Track 03 All I Have To Do Is Dream (Bryant/Bryant)
Track 04 Bye Bye Love (Bryant/Bryant)
Track 05 Cathy's Clown (Everley Bros)
Track 06 Sweet Virginia (Jagger/Richards)
Track 07 It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (Dylan)
Track 08 Crazy Little Baby (Paul James)
Track 09 talk- Bo Diddley
Track 10 Ugliest Girl In Town/Bo Diddley (Bo Diddley/Paul James)
Track 11 Red Hot Mamma (Paul James)
Track 12 Be Bop A Lulu (Gene Vincent)
Track 13 Bye Bye Johnny/Outro (Chuck Berry)