Blues singer Cee Cee James puts her own spin on blues roots. - sonicbids.com

Cee Cee James at Roscoe's

Blues singer Cee Cee James likes her music raw and real. "I like to make the songs come alive for audiences by getting in there and stirring up their souls," James says. "To do that, I sing like a banshee out of hell and give them everything I've got."

James and her band will perform at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Aug. 28-29, at Roscoe's BBQ, 117 S. Main St. Phoenix.

James' original compositions and melodies are not traditional by blues standards. Her newest album, "Low Down Where the Snakes Crawl," on her own FWG Records label, is a mix of blues and blues-based roots.

"Blues is about life. Blues is a place where listeners can relate to music from their own walks of life," James says. "But I'm not just writing lyrics to create blues jump songs. I'm writing from an artistic standpoint and putting my own spin on the experiences in the songs. I'm creating something that is unique, and it may take awhile for people to see what I'm about as an artist."

Some critics in the music industry are keen to what James is all about. Les Reynolds of the Kentuckiana Blues Society "Blues News" wrote that "Cee Cee's latest CD is a testament to her past, her link with the blues and her rock-solid spirituality. The 11 tunes mix roots, blues, rock, funk and even something that could be called 'spiritual folk.'

"Husband Rob Andrews, lends his warm, fat electric slide guitar to the mix on several occasions; however, it is Cee Cee's emotion-drenched, soulful, sometimes gritty voice that accentuates every ache, every cry, laugh and growl in every tune. Comparisons to Janis (Joplin) aside, her voice is what anchors this CD. For someone hidden away, a 'best-kept secret of the Northwest' you might say, this artist has all the earmarks of a talent just waiting to burst onto the national scene. This girl's really 'got it.' And you should get it... the CD that is."

James' lyrics and vocals on the track titled "Done Love Wrong" from "Low Down" are a good example of what sets her apart from other blues artists.

"The vocals on that song come from a real deep place of sorrow and regret," James says. "They're about a hard-core lesson learned from mistakes I made with relationships. The song is very honest and vulnerable. Most of the songs on 'Low Down' have those qualities. I was moving from one phase of my life into another, stepping into who I am as a woman."

James was born in Portland, raised in California and spent many years working as a recording artist in Los Angeles. It was there that she recorded "Spiritually Wet," an album that earned her an independent R&B artist of the year award from the 2000 Los Angeles Music Awards.

"It's a funky pop CD that sounds like Annie Lennox meets Prince," James says. "Lyrically, it's contemplative, but musically, it's fun."

James moved back to Portland in late 2004, where she played around town with various band lineups for a few years. Then she married Andrews, and in 2007 the couple moved to Whidbey Island in Washington.

Andrews and bassist Dan Mohler appeared on James' "Low Down," and are members of her current band lineup, along with drummer Chris Leighton and lead guitarist Jason Childs — all based in the Seattle area.

"They're a good mix," James says. "They're making the sacrifices and have hopes for the band. It's hard to find the right guys."

The group plays at venues such as the Highway 99 Blues Club in Seattle, the Rockfish Grill in Anacortes, the Upstage in Port Townsend and at regional festivals.

"There's also a lot of little clubs that we like to play because the people there are just so down in it," James says.

As for all of the comparisons to Janis Joplin, anyone who listens to James' and Joplin's music would hear the difference.

"I constantly have people tell me that I sound like Janis Joplin," James says. "I get it all of the time. People tell me that I'm channeling her voice. I don't really try to do Janis, so it doesn't bother me.

"Whenever I try to do any of Janis' songs, I don't really feel where she was at," James says. "I think it's the energy and intensity that reminds fans of her."

"Spiritually Wet," "Low Down Where the Snakes Crawl" and James' other recordings are available at www.ceeceejames.com.

There is no cover for the show at Roscoe's. Call 512-1046.

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