James King

Thirty Years Of Farming – 2002 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

One of the best singers working in bluegrass today, James King sings it like he means it, in a pure mountain soul, Carter Stanley style. Though he wrote none of these songs, he owns all of them, in the way that any great singer can invest enough of himself in a performance to make it believable.

The song selection is diverse, but most of it holds together nicely, from the Fred Eaglesmith-penned title track to a pair of George Jones songs and one from Tom T. and Dixie Hall. It is the lesser known material that truly shines here, though. The plaintive, "Roy Lee," pays tribute to the great Clinch Mountain Boy Roy Lee Centers, while "Here Today and Gone Tomorrow," is a memorable tale of an old man on a bus trip who reminisces about his one and only lost love, then dies in the night.

King's voice may be the centerpiece, but this arrangement of tunes are ably supported by his usual band of Kevin Prater, Joe Clark, Adam Pointdexter, and Owen Saunders. Prater in particular shines with his own vocal turn on Carl Story's "I Overlooked An Orchid." It is perhaps a measure of King's humility, or ability, that though he's primarily known as a singer, he steps back and gives a band member a turn.