Blues With A West African Twist

I was surprised that I was not familiar with Markus James prior to his electrifying performance at The Extended Play Sessions recently; I love African music, and West African in particular, and Markus’ music is heavily based in the music from that part of the world.

Markus James with his handmade gourd banjo

Markus James with his handmade gourd banjo

This is a form of the blues that is fairly unique. It is not desert blues, although I could hear elements of it (okay, more than merely elements) in Markus’ music. It is not Delta or Chicago blues, although I could also hear elements of those styles. It is hard-driving, percussive blues that will make you move.

Markus took his first trip to West Africa about twenty years ago, and his life was forever changed (in his words). I know only his most recent release, Head for the Hills, so I cannot speak to the difference between his current music and his old music. Regardless of the style, however, Markus is a master at playing stringed instruments; he played electric guitar and modified acoustic guitar, as well as both a three-stringed cigar box banjo and the gourd banjo at this show.

Markus James

Markus James

Markus James

Markus James

Markus James and his cigar box banjo

Markus James and his cigar box banjo

For this show, the San Francisco-based artist arrived with a percussionist in the form of Marlon Green who was at one time the drummer for John Lee Hooker. Marlon is incredible! Even though he was using a traditional drum kit, he made it sound as if he were playing African hand drums.

Marlon Green

Marlon Green

At one point, he used his leg as a drum. I have heard body percussion, but Marlon seemed to get more sound than I’ve ever heard.

Marlon Green 'drumming' on his leg

Marlon Green ‘drumming’ on his leg

Marlon is also one of the most expressive musicians I have seen; I was not sitting at the right spot to capture most of them, but I hope you get an idea of him in the following photo.

Marlon Green

Marlon Green

Markus introduced us to his vintage Argonne microphone, which I believe he said is from the early 70s and is one of five he owns. I usually prefer voices that aren’t altered by pedals and mics, but the Argonne is an exception. I love it!

Markus James using his Argonne mic

Markus James using his Argonne mic

The set list – or maybe it was lyrics – fascinated me! I’ve never seen such a large number of pages for a show that comprised merely eight or nine numbers!

Markus James' set list

Markus James’ set list

Toward the end of the show, Markus led us in a sing-along to the title track from Head for the Hills.  That’s something I particularly enjoy at the Sessions because we are such a small group in a small room with great sound and it makes us (and me specifically) sound great!

Markus James

Markus James

Here’s a video from the show, which will give you a small taste of the talent that was in front of us this night. It was another fantastic night in Norwood!

 

About suze72

I've loved the arts all my life... I go to a lot of concerts, take lots of photos and want to share them. Every once in a while I do something other than a concert, too. The Boston area is full of opportunities to indulge my passion - I'd like to help make it yours too!

Posted on April 4, 2015, in concert photos, concert reviews, music, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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