MELISSA JAMES: “Best current British blues singer I know.” – The words of BBC Radio presenter Tom Robinson who has long given a nod of approval to the work of this singer-songwriter. Melissa James is, however, much more than a blues singer. She is a singer with incredible passion for her cause which, she sees, is to use her voice and her music to form connections with others. Her music blends folk, gospel, jazz – and life tales – but never without a large helping of the soul which stretches deep beyond her years.
Melissa’s stories bring to the fore fragments taken from her own life as well as those lives and influences that have surrounded her. Which perhaps explains her growing fan base, built possibly on the connection her listeners feel to the lyrics of her songs, sensing the realness of the narratives and feeling that she is someone with a heart that has many a time been hurt and broken, re- gathered and that, on some level, having stared in the eyes of her own demons, she has an empathy for whatever situation someone might at that time be experiencing, or has in the past been through.
Melissa makes her shows as much about the delivery of her songs as they are about reaching out and making a connection with her audience. No finer example can demonstrate this than through the initiation of her project, SING4SANE which, in 2016, saw her invite willing participants to join her at RAK Studios in London to sing and record her song, Live Again. This Big Sing recording – currently on release as a charity single – is also to be heard in a more simplified acoustic form on her latest record, Stripped Back.
All this follows her 2012 debut record, Day Dawns, which affirmed Melissa’s place on the musical map, reaching – and maintaining – its position at Number 10 in the EuroAmericana Charts for three months. It also confirmed Melissa is a singer with a voice that permeates the fibres of many who hear it while also showcasing her work as a poetical songsmith who walks in the shadow of the very songwriters she idolises. These include Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, Eric Bibb and another very fine singer to whom she has been likened, Lizz Wright. There is always much more to be unearthed from Melissa James. Returning to the Green Note, Melissa performs with guitarist Tom Gamble and pianist Arthur Lea.
“James takes all of her musical loves – jazz, blues, soul, folk – and wraps them up into songs that achieve an astonishing array of moods and emotions.” Jazzwise magazine
“Melissa’s vocals are sensitive, soulful and emotional…” Maverick magazine