Scene & Heard

Nashville’s loss is Lane County’s gain

COTTAGE GROVE – There’s no denying that Brian James is one passionate dude. It’s etched across his face during every song he performs, and it shines through with his brand of music, which is mostly old-style blues and soul with a new twist.
He’s one of the area’s best showmen, and he made his first Cottage Grove appearance on Friday night, Oct. 4, displaying why he’s a former Nashville Blues Challenge champion to an appreciative Axe & Fiddle crowd.
Fortunately for local music fans, it turns out that Nashville’s loss is Lane County’s gain. James left Nashville in 2016, relocating to Eugene and forming his new band, Brian James & The Revival.
“When he decided to put something together here, we got lucky,” drummer Dave Roberts said. “He puts on one helluva show.”
Since forming last year, the band hasn’t had much time to play together or go out on tour – largely because James has so many other passions in his life. For starters, he’s married with five kids, ages 10, 8, 7, 3 and 9 months. Also, the former Marine recently finished hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. He completed his 900-mile solo pilgrimage from the Mexican border to Yosemite National Park in 10 weeks.
“I’ve always loved the outdoors and I’d been wanting to make that hike, so I took a little sabbatical and it was fun,” James said. “I met a lot of nice people out on the trail, and it helped energize me for getting back to my music.”
So did the other band members think James was off his rocker for embarking on such an excursion? Rock stars and rock-climbing are avenues that don’t generally intersect.
“He’s a little looney, that’s for sure,” said bass player Russ Whitlatch, a Eugene native. “But we know how serious he is, too. He’s very serious about his work.”
Ripping through an opening set that featured “Tore Down” and a J.J. Cale cover called “Same Old Blues Again,” the band also played some material from its new album, “The Remedy.” One of those new songs – a soulful blues tune called “Memphis” – was undeniably one of the evening’s highlights.
James showed his affinity for old-style blues by cranking out Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Coochie Man,” as well as a couple of Robert Johnson songs.
“We’re always looking for ways to put a fresh spin on older songs,” said James, who was a Best Performer nominee for the 2015 Nashville Industry Music Awards. “I think many of those old songs still have a lot of life in them.”
James’ stage presence, energy and ability to hold a crowd make Brian James & The Revival worth seeing live. The band occasionally plays at the River Stop in Springfield and Mac’s in Eugene and James says he’d love to play someday on a Blues Cruise as well as making the national festival circuit.
Don’t bet against him. He has the kind of style and charisma that’s needed for his star to keep rising.
And if things don’t go quite as planned, who knows…
Maybe he’ll just take a hike.

* * *

No more open-mic nights at the Axe & Fiddle.
That announcement came recently as ownership decided to open a spot on its entertainment calendar.



View this profile on Instagram


The Chronicle (@thechronicle1909) • Instagram photos and videos