Arts and Entertainment

Local blueswoman to give farewell show on Whidbey

Cee Cee James performs her signature heartfelt blues. The singer will give a farewell to Whidbey Island performance with her band at Cozy’s Roadhouse in Clinton on Saturday, Oct. 9.  - Photo courtesy of Cee Cee James
Cee Cee James performs her signature heartfelt blues. The singer will give a farewell to Whidbey Island performance with her band at Cozy’s Roadhouse in Clinton on Saturday, Oct. 9.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Cee Cee James

“Coyote” is always waiting for her with his next trick, but singer Cee Cee James will stay the path and bring her blues to Nashville, Tenn. to do what she does best: sing. No matter what Coyote has in store.

A mythological creature of Native American culture, Coyote may indeed be known as the great deceiver, but, singers take note, he also represents survival.

“Coyote medicine tricks you into your truth,” James wrote in a recent blog entry. “Especially when you are hungry ... [for] the thing you think you need that’s gonna make it all better. That thing you think you deserve ‘cause you’ve been working so hard trying to prove yourself to the world or to someone, or how you’ve been trying to get ahead.”

James has been singing for a long time, trying to make her mark.

She was writing about her failure to win the International Blues Competition in Memphis, where she and her band were chosen to go to represent the Washington Blues Society. They didn’t make it to the finals, which sent James into a series of sleepless nights and depression. The trickster Coyote, she said, had lured her with visions of grandeur, and she fell for it.

But the loss that weekend was only fleeting. Out of tribulation comes triumph, and new beginnings. Other things happened in Memphis that weekend.

“The way I felt on the second night of competition at the Hard Rock Café on Beale Street with all the big dogs in the audience, i.e., Bill Wax, program director of radio XM74 B.B. King’s Bluesville, Don Wilcock and his wife Shelly of, and many other industry folks, plus tons of other people (the room was jam-packed) — the way I felt during the performance and after was beyond magical,” James recalled of one performance.

Others felt the magic, too.“I think that she pours her whole self into her music,” Wax said. “I don’t get the sense she holds anything back.”

“I was on Cloud 100 — if there is such a thing,” James wrote of that performance. “I was high all night. I felt wonderful. I knew we gave a stellar performance which was verified over and over again by the people I ran into during the rest of the evening,” she wrote in her blog.

The music industry folks were not judging the contest, but they liked what they heard of James and her band.

Artist scout Michael Packer of Windmill Music was so impressed by James, he introduced her music to the folks at the Blue Skunk Music label in Chicago where James and the band picked up a deal.

Wilcock, the editor of BluesWax, is also a contributing editor to Blues Revue magazine and the music writer for the Troy Record in New York. He gave the band’s “Seriously Raw, Live At Sunbanks” CD a pitch-perfect review and summed up the album this way: “This CD has the feeling of the best live concerts where a rising-to-a-crescendo flow rides that perfect wave out to the end. The band, while talented and tasty, has a Bud light feel that leaves no doubt who is in control. This woman has been to hell, and now she ready to take us all to heaven.”

“Cee Cee James is raw and real,” Wilcock said.

“Her music is cathartic in the best tradition of blues. The fact that she sounds like Janis Joplin throws people off from her real contribution to music, which is an honesty that comes from deep, deep within, delivered with a level of intensity that takes your breath away,” he said.

Regardless of the contest, James and her band, which includes her husband Rob “Slideboy” Andrews on slide/rhythm guitar, Dan Mohler on bass, Chris Leighton on drums and Jeff Charles on lead guitar, were inspired by the Memphis experience. Bolstered by the response and by the fact that Nashville is a good location for a blues band, James and the group decided to pull up roots and move to Tennessee. They’ve been signed by the Lonesome Road Agency in Nashville, where their managers will be able to easily facilitate promotion and touring.

“To go to the Midwest is something I never thought I’d do again in this lifetime,” James said. “I don’t like heat and I don’t like bugs.

“But, we have tons of fans in that part of the states due to our radio play. So the work will be good,” she said.

“Seriously Raw” is climbing the charts, and James is already booked on her first European tour in France and Germany in February, and the band’s agent is working on another for June in Switzerland.

So, even though she is called to leave the place she loves best, destiny beckons.

“The beauty of this far Northwest region resonates deeply with my soul in ways that make me feel I have been here in previous lives,” James said.

“I look at the trees and water and rough, rugged beauty, and I am inspired by it; I am soothed by it; I am thrilled by it; I am in awe of it and my soul expands,” she added, sounding a lot like the lyricist she is.

That love of the Puget Sound region makes it a bittersweet farewell, but it remains necessary. What happens after that is strictly between the Cee Cee James Band and that devil Coyote.

The Cee Cee James Band will play a farewell island performance at Cozy’s Roadhouse in Clinton from 8 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9. Advance purchase of tickets is recommended.

Click here for Cee Cee James' Web site.

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