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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!

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Showing posts with label Head For The Hills. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Head For The Hills. Show all posts

Thursday, December 11, 2014

What People Are Saying About Markus James' New CD, "Head for the Hills"

Markus James - Head for the Hills

"…primitive, raw, powerful and as real as it gets." - -Reflections in Blue
full review

“Creative ideas, boldness, and conviction…” - -Downbeat Magazine

“…one of those infectious infusions paradoxically wedding the old to the new and keeping the form fresh while familiar.” - FAME (Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange)

“…this music is as soulful as it is deep, as it is profound, perhaps the penultimate blues experience-as terrifying as it is satisfying.” 5 STARS - Gonzo Online (CANADA)

"…destined to be judged one of the top blues releases of 2014 come year’s end."
-Blurt Magazine –  full review

"This record, which is mighty, mighty fine, would make a perfect score for an apocalyptic noir-western-thriller." - -The Flame Still Burns
full review

"…exciting and thought provoking." – Elmore Magazine
full review

"…every track on the album is solid." - -Twangville
full review

"Every self-respecting blues aficionado should consider the primal majesty of this album."
-The Rocktologist
full review

"…will definitely lift your spirits and cleanse your soul!"
-Nashville Blues Society
full review

"…an unusually cool blues release." - -Bman's Blues Report

full review
The nationally syndicated radio program, "Elwood's Blues Hour" (formerly House of Blues Radio Hour), will feature Markus James (accompanied by Marlon Green) live-in-studio in early 2015. He will be performing selections from his new album, Head For The Hills, and a live interview.

From Frederic Lamoureux, Montreal International Jazz Festival, about Markus and Marlon's performance at the 2014 Montreal Jazz Festival: "Really really good. Loved it. The crowd too. Thanks!"

From Eric Funk, Mountain Chill Radio, about Markus and Marlon's performance at Telluride Blues and Brews festival 2014: "Exceptional."

Publicity Contact: Mark Pucci Media (770) 804-9555 /

MARKUS JAMES: from "just say yes"
Watch the Video
*****2 ratings

Gourd Banjo and Hambone on a Mississippi Porch
Watch the Video
*****66 ratings

MARKUS JAMES: from "goin down south"
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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Firenze Records artist: Markus James - Head For The Hills - New Release Review

I just received the newest release (October 28, 2014), Head For The Hills, from Markus James and it's alive! Opening with Just Say Yes, a stripped down driver with straightforward drumming and rhythm guitar. James vocals, presented like through a distorted mic is nicely complimented by whirling slide guitar work. Very cool! RL Burnside's Going Down South really has the feel of today's modern blues as delivered by the Keys for example but with heartier slide and also featuring Kenney Kimbrough on drums. I like this track for isn't simplicity juxtaposed against it's modern slide techniques. Head For The Hills has a lot of the roots of Mali without losing it's North American sound (or vice versa). Shake is a real shak shaker with Calvin Jackson on drums. James does a real nice job on vocal and guitar on this track plus adding a cool harp part as well. This track is certain to appeal to contemporary audiences. Suit Of Golden Clothes is one of my favorites from purely a blues point of view. It captures much of the delta feel and sounds. For Blind Willie is a a somber guitar chant not unlike some of Ry Cooders work. It is very pure and very nice! Marlon Green leads the way on drums on Gone Like Tomorrow. With high register slide work playing against the solid rhythms of the tom toms, this is a cool track just for listening. Fallin From The Sky shows a lot of tension with heavy vocal work from James and his steamy slide work backed only by basic (hambone) percussion. Very cool! Nomo is the closest to a contemporary commercial track on the release. A catchy melody and lyrics make this an easy anthem. Title track, Head For The Hills has a driving beat from Kimbrough and metallic sounding slide work under authentic vocals. With country blues picking coupled with slide work and lightly distorted vocals this is another cool track. On A Mississippi Porch has a very clean and simple acoustic touch. Easy acoustic slide work and hambone percussion give this track realism. Sleepyhead has what I'd describe as a quiet melody that is almost distinctly Mississippi but with a definite Mali sense about it. Very nice. Candyland Refugee is a track with two distinct facets. A simple contemporary song but with an African rhythm and instrumentation. Interesting sound. Diddley Bow And Buckets is a primitive track of exactly as it is titled. A simple DB and soft buckets by Calvin Jackson. Woke Me has a strong feel of Robert Johnson (Crossroads) with a certain modern feel. Kimbrough is back on drums and James' vocals are confident and his slide work is hot! Wrapping the track is Green, a simple acoustic slide guitar melody. A cool track with acoustic nature sounds added on string instrument is a nice conclusion to an unusually cool blues release.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Roots Blues Traveler Markus James Releases New Album, "Head for the Hills," Recorded in North Mississippi, on October 28th

Roots Blues Traveler Markus James Releases New Album, Head for the Hills, Recorded in North Mississippi, on October 28th

“first one’s free
and the last one kills
time to head for the hills”

GRATON, CA – Firenze Records announces an October 28th release date for Markus James’ new album, Head for the Hills. Recorded in Holly Springs, Como, Senatobia and Luxahoma, Mississippi, as well as in Northern California, Head for the Hills showcases Markus James on vocals, electric slide, 3 string cigar box, gourd banjo, slide dulcimer, acoustic guitar, harmonica, beatbox, and a snakeskin-covered 1- string diddley bow. He’s backed by a “who’s who” of North Mississippi Hill Country drummers including Kinney Kimbrough (son of Junior Kimbrough), Calvin Jackson (R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough,  Deep Blues film), Aubrey “Bill” Turner (Otha Turner), and R.L. Boyce (Jessie Mae Hemphill).  Also appearing is drummer Marlon Green, who was the last drummer to record and tour with the legendary John Lee Hooker, and who is currently accompanying James live (recent appearances include Montreal International Jazz Festival, Telluride Blues & Brews Festival). 

“After my Nightbird album came out in 2003, I started getting offers to go out and play, and one of them was from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg,” recalls Markus James. “I went down there with one African musician and the reaction we received was so great, and I noticed that nobody was asking questions about the connection between traditional West African music and Blues; the people there just dug the music and they let us know.  After that, I started traveling more and more to Mississippi and meeting musicians there, and I was especially drawn to some of the old-school drummers of North Mississippi.” 
After performing in Mali, West Africa one year, James had an epiphany about the connections between what he’d heard there and some of the North Mississippi Hill Country music he saw and heard in the film made from Robert Palmer’s classic book, Deep Blues. “I came back to the US, saw the Deep Blues film, and was amazed to see the exact same thing that I had just seen in the sand dunes outside Timbuktu: three drummers and a guy playing what they call a cane flute.  It was just such an obvious connection between the musical traditions I had been immersed in in West Africa and some of the traditional music in North Mississippi.  I was on my way back to Mississippi, this time to perform in Oxford at Ole Miss, and this whole process led me to seek out, record and eventually start performing with some of these great drummers.  Traditionally, in North Mississippi, like in West Africa, music is part of life; it’s not just some ephemeral entertainment like a song on the radio, and these guys also do other things like farming, construction, making white lightnin, etc.  They are not slick session players who work in studios in a city. So, having recorded in all kinds of rough environments in West Africa, I felt right at home setting up mics on a porch, hanging mics from barn rafters, in a carport, and just rolling; and this seemed perfectly normal to them as well. 
“I must have watched the first part of the Deep Blues movie (about North Mississippi) a hundred times; and when I found myself playing with Calvin Jackson in Sherman Cooper’s potato barn in Como, it was like a dream come true. How this all came to pass is a long story.  I had befriended the late, great Jessie Mae Hemphill and visited her several times in Senatobia.  She loved the film I had made, (Timbuktoubab) and the African instruments we were playing. We had a great time hanging out and singing together. Jessie Mae told me about what she knew of the Africans in her family and about traveling and playing with her grandfather, Sid Hemphill, who is documented in the Library of Congress.  Jessie Mae and I were preparing to record together in her trailer, but when I showed up the last time she was on her way to her final resting place.”
James had similar encounters with many of the drummers who’d wind up on his new CD. Kinney Kimbrough had stayed at James’ place in Northern California when he was on tour with another band.   They had started recording then, and later in Como, and yet again in Holly Springs, when Markus stayed with Kinney’s family and they recorded in his open-air carport. James and Kimbrough have gone on to perform live as a duo (Beale Street Music Festival, Sonoma County Blues Festival), and Kinney appears in several videos from the new album. Markus also recorded with Aubrey “Bill” Turner and R.L. Boyce, both of whom were mainstays of fife and drum music in North Mississippi.
“I have recorded a lot of things with these drummers over the last eight years” says James. “The music on this album includes some of these recordings that work with the theme of the album. One of the highlights of this recording process was when I reached Calvin.  After talking for a while and telling him I was also doing some acoustic things now with my gourd banjo, he suggested he could hambone, so I drove out to his family property in Luxahoma, where we recorded on his sister’s porch, with him hamboning while I played gourd banjo and cigar box.  He also said buckets, pots and pans were the first things he had played when he was a kid, so we found two five gallon buckets and recorded with him playing those on the porch.  (The sound of feet stomping on the porch was awesome).   Each of these drummers has special unique qualities, but they are all connected to the rich musical traditions of Hill Country Music.  This is different from Delta Music and it’s not for me to try to explain what that’s about, but I feel that the differences are profound.  The Hill Country is a beautiful place, with lots of trees and shade, somewhere you would want to be, especially if you found yourself in the sweltering Delta or in the big city and out of luck.”

Markus James has been recording and performing original, blues-based music with traditional West African musicians since 1994, when he first made his way to Niafunke, the northern Mali village that was home to the legendary African bluesman Ali Farka Toure. His five critically-acclaimed Mali-based albums have been warmly received all over the world and he had tracks included on two European compilation sets that also featured Robert Plant, Ali Farka Toure, and Tinariwen,  among others.  His work with three traditional Malian music masters was the subject of the award-winning documentary film, Timbuktoubab, which was seen on PBS stations around the U.S. His last album, Snakeskin Violin, featured collaborations with trance groove hunters and a shaman in Mali, as well as Calvin Jackson in Mississippi, traveling Tamasheks in California and African Diaspora musicians in the U.S. Featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” the album also drew rave reviews from Billboard, Living Blues and the “House of Blues Radio Hour,among many others. 
To get a taste of the excitement, click on this link to watch the video for “Just Say Yes:”