Seth James, a singer and guitarist from Fort Worth, Texas, opened for Cross Canadian Ragweed at The Wareham Opera House Wednesday night. James played a number of songs from his new album “That Kind of Man,” released Sept. 1. James’ style is a combination of country, rock, blues and honky-tonk that, while hard to define at times, is as American as the open lands of western Texas he calls home.
James is from the third generation of a family of musically talented Texans. His grandfather played piano with honky-tonk bands across Texas in the 40s and 50s and his father spent many years playing drums across the state. The legacy of these two men is apparent in James’ music. One thing that is certain about his grandfather and father’s influence on him is the vision of the life of a traveling musician. He speaks of this influence on him in the song “Two for Tuesday,” saying, “I’m just a little Jack Kerouac with a credit card, and nothing but nowhere to go.” A surprising reference from a country singer, that is reminiscent of his grandfather’s years on the road.
The album is like most country albums in that a great deal of it is devoted to songs about rejection and women James has lost. James’s style and sound, however, often seem much better suited to these topics than many country singers’ songs do. His choice of a slow blues guitar on “Cigarettes, Anger and Wine,” in which he sings, “You’d be surprised, but a man can survive on nothing but cigarettes, anger and wine,” makes the song feel deeply emotional and heartfelt.
James’s live performance differed from his studio album in several ways, most notably that the rock influence was vastly more apparent live than it was on the album. While there are several notable solos on “That Kind of Man,” they are typically short and not exceptionally impressive. However, during his performance at the Wareham, James played numerous solos that sounded far more like classic rock than anything on the album.
While nearly everyone at the concert came to see Cross Canadian Ragweed and few had heard of Seth James before, the reaction to his music was generally favorable.
Alana Lamphere, junior in advertising and women’s studies, said that while she had come to see CCR, she enjoyed James’ performance. “They were pretty good … and I liked that they had a female vocalist with them.”
Ben Parsons, sophomore in open option, felt that James’ performance was “awesome [and] he had really catchy tunes.” He went on to say that he would “definitely pay to see him again.”
What I found most surprising about Seth James’s live performance and “That Kind of Man” is how much I liked them. I have never been a fan of country. However, I found far more that I respected in him and his music than I did that bothered me.
While at times songs like “Slow Roll” and “No Problem,” I found myself a little bored and uninterested, for the most part the album held my attention and pleased me. In particular I appreciated his talent with a guitar and his lyricism.
Even on songs like “Honky Tonk Saturday Night,” I can’t help but enjoy his lyrics when he sings, “Well the Lord looked down on creation, and he saw the working man’s situation … so he said let there be neon lights.”
“That Kind of Man” may not be an album I will listen to frequently, and James’ style may be a bit too Texan for my liking, but ultimately I can’t help but appreciate his musical talent and respect the album and his live performance as being impressive and authentic all-American music.