Casey James possesses undeniable talent as a guitarist and singer, and he shows off those skills in many ways on his superb third solo album, “If You Don’t Know By Now.”
A follow-up to the critically acclaimed 2018 album “Strip It Down,” James again has teamed up with Tom Hambridge, who has produced records for many of the great blues and country artists of our time.
This record is reminiscent of Gary Clark Jr.’s breakout “Blak and Blu” in that it showcases so many styles. The horn-infused opening song, “Live Live” is a soulful R&B track, the title song is a jazzy jam, “A Better Place” is Southern rock, “Shake Some Salt” is a rock anthem and “Come On Saturday Night” is a percussive New Orleans fete.
James, 38, has been around a while but can still be considered a rising, young star. He placed third on “American Idol” in 2010. Earlier this year, he joined a separate project, Texas Hill, a country harmony trio with a couple of other TV stars, Adam Wakefield and Craig Wayne Boyd, who both competed on “The Voice.”
“Strip It Down” alerted the blues world to James, who is a magnificent guitarist. A Texas native, it’s no surprise he learned his instrument by studying Stevie Ray Vaughan. He cites Albert Collins and Freddie King as influences. But he’s straight-up Lynyrd Skynyrd on the solo on the song “Girl’s Got Something.”
For pure emotion, a gospel-like song, “Be Mine” is the CD’s highlight. That organ is played by studio session superstar Mike Rojas. The bassist is Hambridge’s longtime rhythm section partner Tommy “Mac” MacDonald, who has played on the last five Buddy Guy records, each produced by Hambridge.
Blues purists – a tough crowd to please — might consider James being an alumnus of “American Idol” as a negative, but his last two albums are solid and there is no question he has a soulful voice. “If You Don’t Know By Now” features many moods and goes in many directions. There’s something good here for everyone. The mighty Casey James has knocked another one out of the park.
— Tim Parsons
- Casey James
- ‘If You Don’t Know By Now’
- Release: Sept. 18, 2020
- Favorite tracks: “Be Mine,” “Wish Me Luck”