Samuel James

Singer. Songwriter. Guitarist.

With a voice of grit and gravel, roots musician Samuel James sings with an authenticity lost in time. A modern guitar master, James' skill has a depth and range that seems impossible for a man with only two hands.

An award-winning songwriter, one of the world's most innovative guitar players, and a Moth-featured storyteller, James brings all of this to his amazing stage show. A live performance by Samuel James is part theratre concert, part stomping-on-the-porch dance party and part stand-up comedy. 

He was born the last in a long line of performers including dancers, story tellers, choir singers, jazz pianists, and porch-stomping guitar thumpers dating back to the 1800s.


Samuel James' songwriting has been compared to Leonard Cohen's and his guitar virtuosity to that of Jimi Hendrix.

His critically acclaimed trilogy of albums, Songs Famed for Sorrow and Joy (2008) For Rosa, Maeve and Noreen (2009) And for the Dark Road Ahead (2012) for Toronto's Northern Blues label has gained Samuel praise not only for carrying on great traditions, but for being a true innovator.

His latest album Already Home Recordings Vol. 1  has been called a "rich narrative... fascinating... vital to our cultural dialogue." 


Photography: Matthew Robbins and Still Frame Media

"Samuel James is as enigmatic as they come. James, if you don’t know, is a Portland-based composer, musician, and storyteller in the folk, roots, and blues traditions. But that description feels incomplete. Let’s contemplate his latest project, Already Home Recordings Volume 1. On this short, fascinating album (the other three volumes are slated for release over the course of a year), James offers up one original composition and two traditionals, each one done “two ways,” as a response to discovering that his family lineage, rich with musicians, boasts artists both of the African-American folk tradition as well as the white-American folk tradition. These tracks explore that duality as well as the shared spaces by James first performing the song solo, then performing it with a full band (and by "band," he means just him -- he played all 24 instruments that appear on the album). This is a deeply personal, rich narrative, an introspective but aware art project about our contemporary American experience that feels, right now, very vital to our cultural dialogue."

-Dispatch Magazine