Jimmy James

Unadulterated Guitar
Jimmy James
Jimmy James: Trix.

Not even a pandemic can stop the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio. After a successful European tour, they were lean, mean, and primed to jump back into the studio to create their special brand of hip-shaking retro soul funk.

I Told You So is fresh, tight, dreamy, and features a new drummer. Oh, and R&B guitar maestro Jimmy James plays the bejesus out of a Silvertone.

How is the world treating you?
I’m trying to tough it out like everybody else these days. We’re just trying to keep up, doing live streams and social-distance shows. The thing I miss the most is being able to shake someone’s hand or give someone a hug. I’m just not the type of person who likes to stay away. Unfortunately, that’s how it goes.

I find myself playing slower tunes like The Delfonics, that Philly sound, or early tracks from Stax Records. I’ve always been a loner, so it’s not a stretch from what I’ve always been doing. I used to go out somewhat, but I’d rather stay home. Because there’s not that many shows, I can go to the studio a lot more than I was.

You have a new drummer and a new record.
It was a search to find the person who wants to be on those long tours and really want it. So, Dan Weiss is here. We had Grant Schroff from the Polyrhythmics fill in for the European dates and I Told You So. There are way more songs from that album that were done on those sessions and came together before the pandemic. We came freshly from Europe, took a break for two days while everything was piping hot, and just went into the studio and smashed it (laughs)! We had lots of ideas and there was a lot of material. “Hey man, I got this idea!” “Hey, let’s try this!” We have things that didn’t make the record.

Our manager, Amy Novo, said, “Ya’ll should do ‘Careless Whisper.’” I used to quote that song all the time, so we did it. When we played it in London people were like, “Woah!” I loved that song as a kid. I have memories of sitting in the car with my late older sister and hearing it on the radio. So it brought back those memories. We gave it a try and it ended up on the record. Amy was right. It’s a great song.

What was your main guitar for the sessions?
I used my Silvertone. That’s pretty much what I used on every song. My trusty Peavey Delta Blues 1×15 was having problems and at the end of the last song it crapped out. Fortunately, it made it through the session. I’m getting it fixed, but I can’t take it on the road because it’s sensitive. I just plug straight in. That’s how it began when I started playing guitar – didn’t know a thing about distortion pedals. I would just turn the amp up. I do have a fuzz, a wah, and other pedals that have been gifted to me, but I like the sound of the guitar. I use pedals rarely, but the majority of the time I just want to hear what the guitar sounds like straight through the amp, and that’s it. I choose to hear the guitar as it is.

“Aces” is so damn funky.
You can thank Grant Schroff for that one (laughs). He showed us that during a sound check in Europe. He said, “I got this tune!” So, we worked it out. It’s one of the few times I’m not using chords – it’s all single notes. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, they were doing a lot of single-string stuff instead of chordal stuff. It’s a fun piece, and it’s tough for drummers to swing like that for a long period of time.

Are there any guitarists you’d like to meet?
Steve Cropper. That would be great. I never got a chance to meet Eddie Willis from The Funk Brothers. I also would have loved to meet Jimmy Johnson, of The Swampers. I would love to sit in a room with Cropper and ask, “What were you thinking when you played on ‘Who’s Making Love’ by Johnnie Taylor?” Or “Candy” by The Astors, or “Down In The Valley,” which is a Solomon Burke tune he played with Otis Redding. Or Chris Thomas’ “Walking The Dog.” “(Sittin’ on) The Dock Of The Bay” is great, but I like Eddie Floyd’s “Knock On Wood.” It’s an interesting era they came up in, and I wonder what they thought about with all that. It’s mind-blowing. I could go on and on about that stuff.

This article originally appeared in VG’s August 2021 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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