Stripped Down & Surrendered it might be, the acoustic pluck and slide telling us we have indeed foregone heavy electrification, but in James’ vocal there is enough power to propel the music for as long as it wants to run and with the title track pulsing out a work-team beat to an accompanying vocal chorus, a single tapping on metal, and a whipping echo in the chamber of this deep blues.
What does add extra pleasure is how next The Edge is Where I Stopped has James in a crisp tonal clarity, a gentleness that conveys the sweet timbre of her voice. It is all about possession of a true range, and Cee Cee certainly does. Partner Rob ‘Slideboy’ Andrews plays more blues-real acoustic slide on third Hidden and Buried, electric organ putting some swirl as well as a delicate draw from the power grid into the mix.
I have reviewed here James’ appropriate comparison to the vocal heritage of Janis Joplin, and on these acoustic tracks I can hear some of that tonal quality rather than in the more obvious grit of her rockier and raucous work. This is more about the range, and I do like the exposed ambition of this album. Love Done Left Home is absolutely gorgeous, Cold Hard Blues is swelled with affecting power in the core of its blues, and Glory Bound combines the elements of the whole with aplomb: acoustic slide, the female chorus, James’ sweet scream injecting emotional impact, urging holy father wash over me in the gospel of blues surrender. Amen.