Friday, August 24, 2012

Blood Red Blues - Ten More Questions With Cee Cee James

So what has our friend Cee Cee James been up to lately?  Well, she's been touring almost non-stop, even making a trip overseas to Europe earlier this year.  She also just released a brand new CD, Blood Red Blues, that is poised to make some noise in the blues world.  Coming off two great releases from a couple of years ago, Low Down Where The Snakes Crawl and Seriously Raw:  Live at Sunbanks,    Blood Red Blues is well on the way to topping both of them in critical reception and sales, a pretty impressive feat.

The new disc features some of Cee Cee's most intimate and personal songs, like "Wounds," "Worn Out Sins," and  "Right To Sing The Blues."  She really pours out her heart and soul on these songs.  There's also some great rocking tunes like "Let's All Get Loose" and "Feel My Love Come Down," plus some tunes in praise of the power of love, like "Cover Me With Love," "Thick Like Blood," "100 Ways To Make Love," and "Comfort of a Good Heart." 

Cee Cee sounds fantastic, really taking it to another level on her vocals, and her husband, Rob "Slideboy" Andrews, is his usual awesome self on rhythm and slide guitar....weaving in and out and around these songs like a blues-fused serpent.  Lead guitarist Rocky Athas is also first-rate...he and Andrews complement each other perfectly, and the rhythm section (Chris Leighton - drums, Dan Mohler - bass, and Susan Julian - keyboards) are outstanding, as are the backing singers (Cee Cee, Stanley Crouse, Vicki Atkins, Danunielle "Pie" Hill, and Kimberlie Helton).

If you're a fan of Cee Cee's, more than likely you already have her new disc.  If you're not familiar with her, give it a listen.  You will want to hear more.  

As if she's not busy enough, Cee Cee also appeared in the upcoming movie, We Be Kings, which also stars Magic Slim and Grana Louise.  In between festival gigs, movie shoots, recording sessions, and overseas tours, Cee Cee also found the time to answer Ten More Questions from Friday Blues Fix.  We are grateful that she took the time and we hope you will be, too.  Check it out. 

For your latest release, Blood Red Blues, you’re produced by the legendary Jim Gaines.  What was that like for you as far as your own preparation for recording…..compared to your previous releases?

In one word it was FAST.  I’m used to taking my time, mulling over my melodic progressions, sitting with the instrumentation as it gets laid down, feeling if the lyrics are being properly supported and colored by the musical instruments, adding and taking away things that aren’t working - overall just being able to relax into the production process of each song.  However there was no time for this with Jim due to us needing to get it done in the time frame for the budget we laid out.  So we jumped through many hoops of personal dedication and focus to "get ‘er done" and I don’t feel the music suffered one bit for it.  Had I not done plenty of arrangement and production work on my own in years past, I don’t think I could have made our release date.  Because of the past studio and recording experience we both had, when Jim said jump, we knew where to jump to and quick!  LOL

Is there anything different about this album from your previous releases, as far as production, songs, performance-wise?  If so, did you go out of your way to try to do things differently or did it just work out that way?

We never go out of our way to make anything different!  LOL It just “is what it is,” with our music truly representing our growth as artists and the personal inner life paintings and expressions being revealed in the songs.  We are both obviously performing stronger on this release, our songs revealing a deeper strength of character and for me even more of the beauty and ache of the poignant truth of love and life - which is one of the most beautiful gifts of getting older.. seeing more and more through the veils of illusion.

You’ve always written your songs based on your own personal experiences.  How cathartic is it for you to write a song like “Right to Sing the Blues” or “Wounds?”  

Very.  At times when I listen to or sing those songs in my own private space at home or in the car, I still cry.  I feel I will always cry as those lyrics continue to dig in and work to heal the small child and the woman who experienced the situations that caused those lyrics to be written.  Ah, but what is art without the "experiences" that form it?  Nothing but a pristine, white, perfect blank page; or a beautiful round lump of gray smooth clay.  Rather beautiful.. but there's nothing there to relate to.  Blank slate beauty and perfectionism are illusions that commerce thrives on - but that's another topic for another day or maybe not!  LOL

What can you tell us about your role in the upcoming film, We Be Kings, with Magic Slim and Grana Louise?

I can tell you that speaking of "cathartic," this will be cathartic!  I play Ruth, the Mother of Bianca Ryan.  Bianca plays a young girl in the film living at home who wants to be a singing star.  My husband in the film is her abusive, alcoholic stepfather who doesn’t give a shit about her and picks on her and puts down her ache to follow her dreams.  I was Bianca when I was younger as I had dreams of being something big, in my heart.... famous.. I ached to win the race.. some kind of race seemed to be aching to be run in my chest.  During my teen years, I had an alcoholic stepfather who abused my mother and the drama was so intense that no one dared follow any dreams.  It was only about survival and hoping my mother would not be killed in his drunken rages.  There was more than one abusive stepfather in my life and finally at age 17, I got away.  Bianca does the same thing.  She runs away.  Her Mother is supportive of her dreams.  My Mother was too but there was too much going on for her to really be of any help to me.  Same with Bianca.  So the word "cathartic" is very apropos for my role in this film.  Should be quite an easy one for me to just step into as I understand my role from all angles including the misery of the Stepfather lost in his demonic addiction.  My Stepfather who was an alcoholic put a gun in his mouth when I was in my late 30’s.  Talk about a wrenching experience for me.  That will never stop cutting me in two.  

How did you end up in the movie?  Did you audition for the part or were you approached?

I saw a post on Facebook in regards to supporting the Kickstarter fundraiser for the film and so I pledged to be an extra in the film and then wrote to the guy personally and offered myself up to be more than just an extra.  He went and checked out some of our YouTube videos and he wrote back telling me he was blown away and there began the conversation to bring me into a stronger role.  I felt extremely strong about submitting myself for a bigger role.. something in me said "do it and do it now and don’t hold anything back....."  It felt like driving force of destiny.

You did some acting when you first started out…… that something that you would be interested in doing now, or was this just a one-time thing?

I’m totally interested in acting always have been... always will be.  Every song for me is a "Broadway performance," every song is a "play."  A chance to "act out" the story of the song... make it real... drive it home.  I become the song... and I open up my heart and soul to channel the energies the story of the song wants to bring.  It might sound strange but the song becomes the master and I’m just the puppet.
You recently returned from your second European tour and will be going back soon.  What are the major differences in performing there and in the U.S.? 

Here’s how to sum it up in a nutshell.. the days on the road, in the van, in the hotels... the fatigue, the constant lugging around of the gear and the suitcases, is like a very hard childbirth labor.  Then when you hit the stage it seems the whole world has come out to see your baby and can’t wait to show you their love and appreciation for the birth.  They are not distracted by the women or men in the crowd, or at the bar smoking or watching any TV in the venue or playing any video games or shooting pool.. they are there, at the stage totally engaged in your every move, every note you play and emit; and they applaud and scream like you are God's gift to mankind.  That’s the difference.

Musically speaking, is there anything that you want to do that you haven’t had the opportunity to do yet?  

Tons!!!! We have so many more CD’s to release and so much of the world yet to tour.  We are far from being out of magical musical journeys.

You've been in the music business for a number of years, and played with a lot of different musicians during that time…..are there any cool stories or experiences that you would like to share? 

Well I do think the coolest story for me personally is getting to perform at the Sunbanks Blues Festival in eastern Washington in Sept 2009, and the challenges that came with it that I had to overcome.  We got opening slot at 5pm on a Friday night.  The crowd was still recuperating from the night before, it was about dinner time, and as well, not a lot of folks there knew who I was.  On top of that, it was hotter than the Sahara in the heat of summer and I was not feeling well.  So I decided to let the Volcano erupt and get ‘um out of their tents and campers and cabins.  We played a 90 minute set straight through with a 2 song encore and I never let up on ‘um for a second.  I pulled out every stop and the band rose up to the challenge.  It worked.  They came and they screamed and they danced and they lost their hearts and minds in the HOT Lava.  A year later the CD that was born from that crazy fest - Seriously Raw:  Live at Sunbanks, that had been released in the Spring of that year, had been riding the Roots Blues Charts Top 50 for weeks on end.  By year end it was named on an amazing amount of Top 10 Lists.  Bill Wax, XM BB Kings Bluesville spun "House Of The Blues" - one of the songs from the CD, and every time he did, I sold a CD.  So I guess there was some kind of magic juju juice in that Lava I was spewing that day!!! LOL Whatever it was, I’m very grateful.

Cee Cee with husband Rob "Slideboy" Andrews
What’s in the works for you, musically…..anything you’d like to share?

Well much to the surprise of our fans who will be reading this, we most likely will the studio again next spring.  (hee hee).  We are working on a new sound and we feel excited to get in and lay these new ideas down.  This will not discount anything we have already done, it’s just a new layer of creation that is aching to be born.  It will also open up many more opportunities for us for performance around the world.  We also have something special up under our sleeves that we are working on and with God’s Grace and guidance it will come into birth sometimes soon!  

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