The McKinley James’ return to soul

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Webster native McKinley James knows what you want. He knows what you need. That’s because he’s gonna give it back if you’re inclined to listen. 

James, now based in Nashville, is an advanced talent on the guitar who started out gigging professionally around the age of 13. His was an enthusiastic stab at electric Chicago blues, rockabilly and soul. 

But he had to make a choice. Soul won out. Fans can chew on it on his latest album, “Still Standing By.”

Fans protested some. However, James’ decision won out.

“Overall, I think they were digging it because in our live show, we keep some of the rock ’n’ roll and heavier blues stuff,” James says. “But I’ve definitely heard a coupla fans who miss it there.”

He promises it’s back to the heavy on his new live release, “McKinley James Live.”

“The next one will be a full-length (album),” James says. “And there’ll be more rock ’n’ roll and blues in there. It will have more of what we have in the live shows.

“Even if we put a soul tune in the set, I try as best as I can to go all the way,” he adds. “With singing soul music, you can’t half-ass it. It’s just not believable. But when you’re going for it and the audience sees that, it’s more genuine.”

The man owes his pedigree to his pops, who currently plays drums in the band. But that dynamic has changed from focusing on his age and his dad’s contribution to his career to an 18-year-old guitar master who’s made a return to soul.

James started out on the Hammond B-3, not the guitar. 

“At the time I was a huge Booker T and the MGs fan. And I had this VHS—maybe it was a DVD—of them doing a Stax reunion in Norway in 1968 or 1967. And it was Booker T and the MGs backing up Otis Redding, Arthur Conway, Stax artists like that,” he says. “That was the first time I noticed guitarist Steve Cropper.”

Then the allure, the siren’s call of one guitar player in particular, left James in his wake.

“Then I heard Link Wray for the first time. I was still playing B3, but I was like, ‘Nah, I like the organ, but guitar is more where I’m at.’”

Nowadays he usually goes back to the West Side Chicago players for classic-new ideas and for an added jolt. Cats like Magic Sam and Otis Rush. And contemporary players like the late Hollywood Fats (James Harmon Band) and Dave Gonzalez (Paladins). Sometimes he’ll veer off into some raucous harp quotes.

“Like William Clark or a Little Walter lick on the guitar,” James says, “Just because his phrasing is so good.”

The McKinley James Band plays Saturday, April 30, at Abilene Bar and Lounge, 153 Liberty Pole Way; 7 p.m. doors, showtime 8:30 p.m. $15. abilenebarandlounge.com

Joe Buck Yourself

There are plenty of musicians who cop to an evil jolt from the devil, claiming they walk in his cloven footprints. But as real bad-doers, none is more downright malicious with his music than Kentucky-born Joe Buck Yourself, aka Jim Finklea, who warns us the devil is on his way. You better listen up.

Joe Buck Yourself

Buck is known for his work with Gringo, as Hank Williams III’s bassist in his Damn Band, with Hank III’s punk outfit Assjack and as lead guitar for the damnation tent revivalist  sensations, Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers, who eventually tossed Finklea out of the band for simply being, frankly, too wild.

Two openers from Rochester on the lineup are the psychobilly-mongers Grease Creepers and Wyatt Coin.

Joe Buck Yourself with Grease Creepers and Wyatt Coin, Saturday, April 30, at the Bug Jar, 219 Monroe Ave., 9 p.m. $12.

New Candys

Italy’s New Candys hit me in the head like all those atmospheric bands that include an “and” in their name. 

Bands like Love and Rockets, Echo and the Bunnymen, the Jesus and Mary Chain—a post-psychedelic pop, mid-tempo gyration indoctrination.

Like Rochester’s Ginger Faye Bakers, their music was featured on the sleazy Showtime hit series, “Shameless.” 

Now they’re bringing the Italian circus filled with its rock ’n’ roll reverb and wash to a venue that knows no shame: The Bug Jar.

New Candys with Sisters of Your Sunshine and the Stone Lows, Monday, May 9; doors 8 pm, music, 9 p.m.

Here’s a comprehensive list of live shows in and around Rochester: Get Your Gig On

Frank De Blase is Rochester Beacon music writer. The Beacon welcomes comments from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name.

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