Steve James

Depending on who you ask, singer, stringster, songsmith and storyteller STEVE JAMES is everything from legendary to notorious.  In the vast and varied world of contemporary roots/blues and folk music, he's earned his reputation with decades of tireless international touring, a stack of touted solo recordings, a wry kinetic stage presence and an unmistakable "this is me" style of playing and singing.

His creative instrumental approach on guitar, slide guitar and mandolin is informed by a life-long immersion in roots music techniques, repertoire and history; and it's one he's shared through numerous books, print lessons, DVDs on-line tutorials for guitar, slide guitar and mandolin for Acoustic Guitar and Homespun.

On his own recordings he's been joined by Cindy Cashdollar, Bad Livers, Alvin Youngblood Hart, his frequent duet partner Del Rey and a host of other top players.  As a sideman, on stage and in the studio, he's played with Howard Armstrong, Bo Diddley, John Hammond, Maria Muldaur, Furry Lewis and James McMurtry…and he often gets a shout-out to "get on up here" from the likes of Tommy Emmanuel, Hot Tuna or Chip Taylor.  He's also been heard on "A Prairie Home Companion",  "Austin City Limits Live", "NPR Morning Edition" and many other syndicated broadcasts worldwide.

Steve James...b. NYC 15 July, 1950.  Early exposure to blues/folk/jazz through father; record collector and amateur guitarist.  Self taught on guitar from age 12.  Grad high school and worked outside music and for guitar maker Michael Gurian.  Res. in E. Tennessee early '70s.  Infl. by area musicians incl. Sam McGee.  Res. in Memphis '75-'77.  Hosted radio show on WEVLfm, performed solo and as acc. for Furry Lewis, Lum Guffin, others.  Res. in Texas '77-present.  Performed solo and led small combo (incl. saxophonist Clifford Scott, drummer Bobby Irwin) at area clubs, concerts, festivals.  Rec. regularly after '88 and toured U.S., N. and S. America, Europe, Australia, etc.  


"Steve James is a great instrumentalist, a prolific composer, and a dynamic stage presence.He is one of the few contemporary songwriters to manage the neat trick of working within older traditions while consistently producing lyrics that sound fresh and smart rather than cute or nostalgic. His singing conveys both the depth and the humor of his material, and his live shows have a crackling energy that is light years away from the museum-style presentation of many acoustic blues revivalists. It's a hell of a show."

Elijah Wald

musician and author of "The Dozens" and "How The Beatles Destroyed Rock'n'Roll"


“Old-timey yet in the moment, traditional yet innovative, Steve James’ guitar playing and songs will take you to places long gone as well as destinations you’ve never been to…and you don’t even have to leave your achair to go to take his musical rides ”

 Jody Denberg DJ at KUT Radio Austin

"Steve James is an excellent Arts Envoy and Ambassador for his country.  He is easy to approach and audiences everywhere talked with him after the visits...he always had time to talk with the youth.  Despite a heavy schedule, which included travel almost every day, he never complained, was always on time and in good spirits." 

 Heidi Day  Cultural Affairs Officer  U.S. Embassy  Helsinki