Cee Cee James debuts 'Blood Red Blues' at Beale
Cee Cee James has amassed an impressive resume as a blues singer and songwriter over the past 15 years. With the upcoming release on July 17 of her new recording, “Blood Red Blues,” she is already racking up advance reviews that offer comparisons of her powerhouse vocals to early Bonnie Raitt as well as the late Janis Joplin.
James was born in Portland, Ore., and built her career in Los Angeles and along the West Coast with three well-received recordings: her 2000 debut, “Seriously Wet,” and more recently, 2008’s “Low Down Where the Snakes Crawl” and her 2010 live recording, “Seriously Raw – Live at Sunbanks.”
CD release concert
When: July 7, Cee Cee James at 10 p.m. Opening act Roland Johnson at 8 p.m.
Where: Beale On Broadway, 701 S. Broadway, 63102.
How much: $7 at the door. Advance copies of James’ new CD will be on sale.
But James won’t be celebrating the release of “Blood Red Blues” with a special performance in LA or Oregon. Instead, she’ll be performing her CD release concert right here in St. Louis – her new home - this Saturday, July 7, at Beale on Broadway.
Although she was busy preparing for Saturday’s Beale On Broadway concert as well as upcoming tour plans, James graciously took the time to take my call and talk about her move to St. Louis and her new recording.
“I basically moved around quite a bit growing up, but it was mostly on the West Coast,” James says. “The furthest east I had ever been was when I lived in Oklahoma as a kid for several years. But after I moved back to Oregon from Los Angeles a few years ago when I restarted my career again, I realized the location made touring anywhere except the West Coast very expensive. So Rob and I decided to make the move to Nashville, Tenn.”
Rob is James’ third husband, Rob “Slideboy” Andrews, who also plays guitar in James’ band. And when she references restarting her career, she’s talking about the loss she experienced after the breakup of her first marriage and, especially, the pain she experienced when her second husband died unexpectedly.
Those experiences did turn James’ music from a pop and rock style to the blues. And her second and third recordings -- “Low Down Where the Snakes Crawl” and “Seriously Raw” -- underscored that that was clearly the right musical direction for her to follow.
The move to Tennessee helped geographically in terms of the ability to perform in more areas of the country, but something still didn’t feel quite right to James in Nashville. A performance last fall in St. Louis prompted her move here.
“I played the Big Muddy Blues Fest on Laclede’s Landing last September,” says James. “Bud Jostes, the proprietor of Beale on Broadway, saw me and my band play on a video earlier that year, and booked me for the festival. The audience response at the Big Muddy was amazing! Afterward, Bud told Rob and me that we really needed to move to St. Louis and be part of the music scene here. So in December, we decided to make the move to St. Louis.”
James and Andrews are pleased with the decision to move here from Nashville and plan to be here for quite awhile.
“Living in California, you tend to overlook the Midwest,” states James. “But St. Louis has been a great base for us. It’s got a more cosmopolitan feel to it than Nashville, and the music scene here is really strong.”
Since moving here, James has completed recording her new release back in Tennessee and recently returned from a European tour.
“We toured Europe for the second time in May,” says James, “and the reception we got was beyond belief. Europeans really love blues and R&B, so it was a real pleasure to play for them.”
And what about those comparisons of James’ singing style to that of the late Janis Joplin? According to James, it’s more of a case of two artists using the same emotional approach rather than any form of imitation.
“I hear that comparison often, says James. “I do have to say that I really didn’t listen to a lot of Janis Joplin when I was young. My dad was a nightclub performer, and a really talented one,” recalls James. “And my mom was very involved in the Pentecostal church, so I heard a lot of great gospel singing growing up. So I think entertaining came naturally to me.”
“But I do think there are some definite similarities in my approach to performing and Janis,” James says. “I want the audience to really feel the song, and I dedicate myself completely to giving them everything I can to make that happen. And that’s what Janis did when she sang. And I also have a rough edge to my voice – like her. So I can see the comparisons, but I really feel what I’m singing all comes from me.”
With the CD release concert set for Saturday, and a live performance this Friday afternoon on Art Dwyer’s KDHX show, there’s plenty on the immediate horizon. But James is also looking ahead as well.
“After the CD release concert at Beale, we’re heading for Indianapolis and a performance at another festival in Indiana. Then after some more U.S. dates, we’ll be heading for a Scandinavian tour in the fall. But right now, the focus is all on getting ready for Saturday and the CD release concert at Beale – then the official release of “Blood Red Blues” on July 17. It’s a lot of work, but it’s going to be fun!”