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The Stuart James Band
Bulls Head, Barnes - Oct 2005
Reviewed by Phil McNeil (Former Deputy Editor, NME)


The Stuart James Band are a hard rock blues trio, in the mould of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Rory Gallagher, Johnny Winter and, of course, the Experience. It's Stuart James plus his 24-year-old brother on bass and a 19-year-old drummer -- and they are absolutely amazing.

They were a last-minute stand-in for the American bluesman Carvin Jones. We had never heard of Stuart James until yesterday, but we thought we'd go along anyway. I'm so glad we did because not only did we make a great discovery, but without the two of us there would have been an audience of just FOUR people for the first half of the show! But as one of our fellow audience members said afterwards, "I feel like I've stolen something, seeing a band that good for just six quid."

Stuart is possibly the best blues rock guitarist I've seen live since... well, SRV himself. It is thrilling when you see an R&B guitarist in total control and this guy really is the business. They play the best versions of 'Take Me To The River' and 'Proud Mary' I've ever heard, and that includes the originals by Al Green and Credence Clearwater Revival (must confess I'm not a great fan of either song).

Although Stuart doesn't ape Hendrix, they obviously dote on the great man, playing Voodoo Chile, Red House, Purple Haze and Fire. I actually saw Hendrix play Fire in a club about the same size as the Bull's Head in 1966, and The Stuart James Band reminded me what a brilliant hard rock song it is. Their version is fantastic. They also play quite a few of their own songs, all of which are good.

He's a pretty good singer with a hint of Paul Rodgers about him.
One notable thing is that they don't put a foot wrong. Often when watching a blues rock band, you'll be enjoying it and then they do something really crass or turgid. I don't think there was ever a danger of that happening with this band -they are very smart and they do what comes naturally.

I had a little chat with Stuart's brother and he said Stuart started playing guitar at 12 and "must have been born with it". Absolutely right: you don't learn to play with this ease, it has to be there in the blood. Like, say, Luther Allison, this guy shows why the blues is the natural language of the electric guitar.

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