Alan James played at my Cozy Cottage Concert Series last night and left us speechless , not once, not twice, but three times. He can express his emotions so eloquently, so manly, yet in the end humanly. You just had to be there. He made lyric booklets and a special CD that was an exact replica of his song list for the night! I was completely impressed. Thank you all who came, and thank you Alan.
This week's guest ...was Alan James. Mr. James has the distinction of being the first guest I've booked on the show without ever hearing him. I've known Alan for years and yet never did get to see him perform. I booked him based on his strong personality, his description of what he does, and the fact that the San Diego Folk Heritage had booked him for a concert. Yes, I brought him up from the audience a couple of times when he attended other Folkey Monkey shows, but that was the first time I'd heard him, after I'd already signed him up.
Well I feel pretty good about my gamble now. Alan brought to the show tonight something that has been missing from previous shows and that's that earthy quality that folk is all about. Through his own compositions, and those of Richard and Mimi Farina, Guy Clark, Cisco Houston, and others, Alan managed to take us back to the days when folk wasn't slick or commercial. It was just simple emotions told in simple stories set to simple music that packed one heck of a wallop that went right to the gut.
He accompanied himself with a trio of fine instruments: His Taylor 12 string guitar, his Dobro, and his pre-war Martin single O 6 string, all of which he miked using the same clip on saxophone mic, which gave them all the best acoustic sound I've heard in a good long while. His senses of drama and humor were sharp, and his story telling ability kept us enchanted.
Great job Alan, we'll do it again.
Joe Rathburn, host of the "Folkey Monkey"
Stories Told in Tune
The simplest way to describe Alan James is that he’s a musical storyteller. He’s also a pretty good guitar player and singer (he’d better be, at his age), but those are the enhancements; his stories and comments about life and love are what catch and hold your attention. Some of them will make you laugh-- and others will put a lump in your throat. Some will bring you long thoughts, as they touch your mind as well as your heart. His performances are not only enjoyable, they’re meaningful. You’ll walk away feeling good inside.
The songs you’ll hear are the "keepers" from over forty years of playing and writing songs—plus all the other things that musicians do to support their habit. These are tunes that have stood the test of time. I asked Alan to say a bit about his experience songwriting, and this is what he told me:
"Songs don’t come from playing and writing music; they come from the rest of life, from the joys and sorrows of being human. They're tales of the comic and tragic parts we play in each others' amazing, so-called "ordinary everyday lives", told to a tune. They come from all of us, to all of us, for all of us. . . I don’t write songs because I’m "different"; I do it because I’m the same."
Some of his songs are autobiographical. Some were inspired by family, loves, friends, or even one-time encounters with strangers. As you listen, it may give you the feeling that one of them was written especially for you. . . and who can say? As Alan also said to me, "If the shoe fits—dance in it."