Album Reviews

Markus James – Head For The Hills (Firenze Records)




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1412488426_coverWhat hills should we head for? These would be the hills in North Mississippi’s hill country which is where all but one of Markus James’ drummers–Marlon Green being the exception–come from. It’s the home of old school drumming, which both in form and style depends on more primitive instruments and style.  This is in keeping with the instruments that Markus is playing: electric slide guitar, 3-string cigar box, gourd banjo, slide dulcimer, acoustic guitar, harmonica, beatbox, vocals, and a snakeskin-covered diddley bow. To make things more interesting, James wrote all but one of the 16 cuts.
Markus James has spent considerable time in West Africa, and the music is strongly influenced by both the time he spent there and his love of the blues.  He has that rare ability to combine the two forms into a whole that incorporates both the instruments and the musicality of each genre.  He merged the two musical forms to create a third form that is both of the traditional forms and, at the same time, something new and different.  He uses just one of the drummers with most of his songs, but three cuts don’t have any drummer and he uses his instruments to supply the rhythm. Head For The Hills is exciting and thought provoking, without being noisy or flashy; it relies on solid playing and thoughtfulness.
– Bob Gottlieb


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