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Entertainment News

Sunday, 28 October, 2007 12:51 PM

CMA New Artist Spotlight: Elana James

PHOTO BY TODD V. WOLFSON

Snarf recording artist Elana James

By Bob Doerschuk
© 2007 CMA Close Up News Service

Elana James' self-titled debut is swinging musical proof that, sometimes, a bump in the road can provide the perfect wakeup call. James spent eight successful and well-traveled years as fiddler/vocalist for acclaimed Austin, Texas-based western swing outfit, Hot Club of Cowtown. Hot Club was touring with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson when the decision was made to take an extended break. Right at that moment, Dylan called, and James began touring as a member of his band.

Inspired by Dylan's career longevity and on-the-road fortitude, James resolved to record her own album her own way, enlisting the help of old friends including legendary Texas fiddler Johnny Gimble. The resulting project, released Feb. 27 on James' own label, Snarf Records, and produced by James with Mark Hallman, is a rare gem of an album that finds James spreading her formidable musical wings.

The album features a 50/50 mix of standards and inspired originals, all delivered with a sly wink and lifted by James' charming vocals. James moves easily from the fiddle-spiced swing of "Twenty-Four Hours a Day" to the deep-and-dark Appalacian meditation of "All the World and I." A cover version of Dylan's Nashville Skyline classic, "One More Night," completes the picture.

A native of Prairie Village, Kan., James studied classical violin from the age of 5, picking up music from her mom, a concert violinist, and her winning stage persona from her gregarious dad. After high school, she studied at Manhattan School of Music and was soon amazed to be jamming with and learning from some highly regarded players including Cliff Bruner, Gimble, Hoot Hester and Kenny Sears. For James, pouring all of that invaluable experience into her first solo project has been a life-changing experience.

"I'm kind of starting over with new fans," she said. "It's kind of a freeing situation - you do what you do because you want to do it."

IN HER OWN WORDS:

Who are your musical heroes?
"Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan."

Which song would you secretly like to cover?
"'Ripple' by the Grateful Dead. Ah, now it's not so secret. I love that song."

What CD is on your stereo?
"Woody Guthrie, The Asch Recordings Vol. 1: This Land is Your Land."

What book is on your nightstand?
"The Dead and the Living, poems by Sharon Olds."

What song do you wish you had written?
"'Stardust.'"

What moment in your life would you relive if you could?
"It hasn't happened yet."

On the Web: www.elanajames.com

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