by Brix Jennings
What truly resonates in a song? Something written about generic love, penned by a group of people hoping to appeal to the masses? Or a tune more genuine, written from personal experience, singing about something that absolutely matters? That conjures up images of Jenn Howard and her journey through life expressed in her deeply moving and cathartic music, does it not? When music means something, you can feel it in your bones, your heart and your soul.
Sometimes, it isn’t a feeling that forms the basis of a moving song, but a place. We all have a place that has helped us, inspired us, and brought us around when things have gone wrong. Former Beatle, Paul McCartney expressed his love for the Mull of Kintyre, an area that he felt was home after he formed Wings. For emerging US singer/songwriter Bacon James, that place is the Santa Fe River.
Photo source: baconjamesmusic.com
Bacon’s site tells you he was born in a shack on the outskirts of Clarksdale, Mississippi, in 1949, and his emotional, powerful vocals certainly project images of blues artists of the mid-sixties. In fact, James is a resident of Gainesville, Florida, but his music was born in Clarksdale, the home of the blues, and a man is defined by his music. To a degree, James was born in Clarksdale. Wherever he is from, his message is strong. There’s something overwhelmingly powerful about one man (or woman, of course) and a guitar, one story of love for a person or place, but to truly express that, you need soul and belief in your message. Bacon James delivers that with aplomb. James is a mold-breaker to some degree. The song of which we speak, a powerful ode to a place of refuge for the writer, recently won first prize at River Fest Celebration, earning James a cash prize. However, the artist is dedicated to environmental causes, and his prize went to Growhub, a local non-profit organization that empowers adults with disabilities. James doesn’t just sing with soul – he lives with soul as well. As for the song, it’s certainly one that will leave a mark on you, whether you’ve been to the river or not. “The Santa Fe River is such an important part of our community and has provided a refuge for me during the last few difficult years – I am so grateful for the opportunity to write my song and pay tribute to this beautiful river,” he said after winning the songwriting competition. That’s certainly something that resonates in the slow-building track. It starts light but builds slowly into a crescendo. It’s reflected in the lyrics like the bright blue sky reflects in the harsh, unforgiving water he sings about – the clarity is there in his vocals, guitar, and message. “Every life gets harder than we wish it would, so much more than mine. Sometimes I can’t see farther, can’t see the greater good, can’t see the truth from the lies.” The slower start suggests a low mood, a somber blues song in the making. However, it quickly builds, and James starts to make a lot of noise for one man with a single instrument. “Santa Fe, I found my way,” he shouts late on – not an angry shout but a relieved shout of a man who has found exactly what he is looking for, his salvation and solace - his Mull of Kintyre. His guitar matches the deep, alluring blues vocals and draws you in like those cool blue waters. In the end, you feel his satisfaction at being on the river and understand why the river means so much after what has been a tough few years for us all. Bacon James is a man on a mission, a man who lives a life that you can feel in his song. There’s more coming from the Gainesville native with the spirit of Clarksdale running through his blood, and if it’s as impassioned, meaningful, and genuine as this track, then it’s going to be worth waiting for.