Few musicians are as skilled and energetic as Seattle’s Jimmy James. The guitar-shredder earned fans during his time with the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, and is now doing so with the funk/soul group True Loves, where his otherworldly talents elevate the classic groove to another level. You may even see him play the guitar with his teeth or behind his back. The band True Loves is set to perform at Cypress Reno on Wednesday, Feb. 7. Tickets are $15; for more information, visit cypressreno.com.
What was the first concert you attended?
UB40. I must have been 13 or 14. It was at the Seattle Coliseum.
What was the first album you owned?
Best of the Blues Vol 1. I was really excited because it has BB King on there, and John Lee Hooker, and all these people. I listened to it so much, the tape broke.
What bands are you listening to right now?
I’ve been listening to a group called The Ambassadors from the ’60s. I started revisiting Dyke and the Blazers. Aretha Franklin, of course, and Jimi Hendrix. Anything Stax Records or Motown, and the TSU Toronados.
What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?
I think I appreciate most of everything for what it is. I feel like everything has its place, and I listen to a little bit of everything, so it’s kind of hard for me to pinpoint and say, “Oh, I don’t really listen to that.” Whatever makes people feel good is music to me.
What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?
Khruangbin. I really, really dig Mark Speer and what he does on the guitar. He’s very fabulous with it. Another group, of course, if she was still here, but I already saw them many times, was Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. I always loved watching them, and I came to pretty much every show they ever did in Seattle. They were always top-notch. I also like Durand Jones and the Indications.
What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?
“Stuck on You” by Lionel Richie, “Material Girl” by Madonna, “Crush on You” by The Jets, “Careless Whisper” by George Michael, “Caribbean Queen” by Billie Jean, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper and “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen.
What’s your favorite music venue?
I’ve never had one that I didn’t like. Just like different genres of music, I can’t really pin it down. It’s the venue, but it’s also the people, so it’s hard for me to really pin one down and say, “Oh, I like this over that.” I love pretty much every place I’ve ever played at.
What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?
There’s a song I’ve been listening to by the Fantastic Four, “The Whole World Is a Stage,” and I would later come to find out after my mom passed away in 2022 that it was one of her favorite songs. I didn’t know that at the time, because it wasn’t mentioned to me until after her passing, from her cousin. It goes, “The whole world is a stage, and everybody’s playing the part. The stage is set, and the curtain goes up. The scene is a broken heart.” I just started singing it, and I was imagining my mom singing it way back in the day, and what it would have sounded like when she did that.
What band or artist changed your life? How?
After hearing Robert White, who was the session guitar player on “My Girl” by The Temptations, that’s what made me want to pick up a guitar. Also hearing Eddie Willis’ guitar part, the other Motown session player from the Funk Brothers, his guitar lick melody on “I Second That Emotion” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, that was another thing that changed me. Listening to Pat Hare, Curtis Mayfield, Mighty Joe Young, Jerry Puckett, Reggie Young, Steve Cropper—it was just a lot of those guys, the session guys, who are unsung heroes, even though they were just doing their part. It was very amazing hearing them, and they shaped me as a person, how they made a song more than a whole barrage of notes. They made a song and made it sing.
You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?
I would have asked the great James Jamerson how he felt when he played the bassline on “It’s a Shame” by The Spinners.
What song would you like played at your funeral?
Natalie Cole’s “Inseparable,” Henry Mancini’s “Nadia’s Theme,” Isaac Hayes’ version of “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” the isolated string session by the Detroit Symphony of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Drifting” by Jimi Hendrix.
Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?
It’s a tossup between Dyke and the Blazers, Funky Broadway, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced.
What song should everyone listen to right now?
The Ambassadors, “Ain’t Got the Love of One Girl (On My Mind)”. That’s my go-to song that I’ve been listening to a lot. The drums are mixed out front; the groove is impeccable; and everything about it is just perfect.