This tale comes right out of the inner soul of the blues. It reads like the street-level truth in the lyrics of a Delta classic. What kind of artist finds their way to Chicago after having learned licks on a guitar from a Tennessee guy named “Catfish?” What kind of artist hones powerful vocals in a church choir and then translates that emotion into a deep understanding of the blues? Jan James is that kind of artist.
Raised in central Michigan on a family-run fishing resort, Jan’s talent was obvious early on.
“The more I played guitar and the more I tried out the voice I learned to use in the church choir,” says Jan, “The more I liked it.”
And so did everyone else.
She was continually invited to sing at public gatherings and—like all the great artists—the seduction and thrill of performing onstage soon matched her talent.
Jan met her partner, songwriter/guitarist Craig Calvert, while they were both attending Michigan State. She was working in a duo, performing regularly at a small café. When she needed to replace her guitar player, the timing was right. It was perfect. Craig was taking a break from his punk band; they met and developed a musical chemistry that has evolved into a big sound and feel that is colored with blues, soul and the sweet dynamics of the best rock.
After their performances together established a solid reputation for them in the Detroit area, Jan was voted “Best Female Vocalist” by the Detroit Metro Times.
Then, continuing a legend-laced journey, they moved to Chicago. The blues capital was good to them, and they to it. They became favorites in such venues as Buddy Guy’s Blues Legends, Taste of Chicago and The House of Blues. They shared the stage with Koko Taylor, John Mayall, Little Feat, James Brown and B.B. King. They cut their first demo, a powerhouse CD called “Last Train,” picked up by the Dutch label Provogue, in yet another example of the wide appeal that American blues has throughout Europe.
Jan launched a promotional tour of acoustic and electric performances aired on radio and television throughout The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Scandanavia; along with a feature on NBC’s television program, Talking Blues. The press raved: “Voices of the caliber of Jan James’ are rare in today’s pop music…” and, “Her upbeat rock/blues is exceptionally radio-friendly and very stylishly executed.”
More albums followed: “Soul Desire,” “The Color of Rose” and the critically acclaimed, “Limousine Blues.”
Comparisons to legendary artists are often soaked in hype and are sometimes unfair both to the legend and to the musician who is carrying on the legacy. But sometimes they are necessary. Sometimes they must be made; not just for the sake of similarity but for the sake of the importance that keeping something so stark and vital alive means to the art.
Jan performed at Chicago’s Royal George Theater in the staring role of Janis Joplin in a play based on Janis’ letters and songs. Along with the standing ovations, there was so much more. There was the aura of a major talent. There was not only the power of what Janis had left for us, there was the power in what Jan James now does…and will do.
Jan’s newest track “Trouble With The Water” is a pure and commanding showcase of her heritage and her talent from start to finish. Each and every gut wrenching note demonstrates just how good she is. This is what modern blues should be. This is Jan James.