Steve James' Guitar Still Resonates

James 300

Steve James says when he's composing, the instrument often calls for the song rather than the song calling for the instrument. Courtesy of the artist. hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of the artist.

American folk musician Steve James has played resonator guitar for audiences around the world. He's performed with everyone from the legendary Furry Lewis and Bo Diddley to Maria Muldaur and Buddy Guy. James' new album is called Short Blue Stories and consists mainly of original tunes, classic country blues and, according to the liner notes, "retro-postmodern roots balladry."

"That's what happens when you write your own press," James says. "I put the retro-postmodernism part in there because my creative point of departure as a musician is largely based on archaic or vernacular forms of American music that I've heard since I was a kid."

James often refers to aspects of his playing as "minimalist" — a word he also uses to describe the style of one of his fondest influences: Furry Lewis.

"Furry didn't play very many notes," James says. "But he owned every single note that he played."

James' connection to his craft is deep-rooted — especially the connection he shares with his instruments.

"When I'm composing, the instrument often calls for the song rather than the song calling for the instrument," James says. "Quite often, I'll just be sitting around looking out the window, staring into middle space, playing my guitar, and it's almost as though the instrument would reveal a song."

Web Resources



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.