Singing country, when country wasn’t cool: Angela James

August 10, 2012

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I guess there are still folks out there who would never consider country music cool. I’d argue that crowd never heard Faron Young‘s honky tonkin’ on “Wine Me Up”, or George Jones and Melba Montgomery's take on "Let’s Invite Them Over”, a song of forbidden love that borders on that sexual peccadillo known as swinging. The stories, the voices and the instrumentation were the ingredients that made classic country so incredible but in the 1980’s it seemed that country lost its way. Beginning in that decade, country music on "country" radio stations and what was selling in Nashville was more like pop music with a twang; gone was a sense of musicianship and heartfelt story-telling.

But even throughout those ‘dark days’ of country music, there were plenty of artists keeping true to the roots of the music without sounding like a Loretta Lynn or Marty Robbins clone.

Chicagoan Angela James was born and raised on a farm in Eastern Tennessee. She learned how to sing listening to the very style of country music that lots of purists said was anything but country: 1980’s country music. You could say she saw the light when, after leaving graduate school, a group of elder musicians in Mississippi taught her the songs of Kitty Wells, Ray Price and Loretta.

James’ music looks to the past but isn’t stuck there. From her stories of love and redemption to the pedal steel, her music is firmly planted in the present.  Like other Chicagoans such as Robbie Fulks, Janet Beveridge Bean, and Lawrence Peters, Angela James is helping to keep that flame of country music alive and well in a city with deep country music roots.

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