“Christopher James is amongst the best pure musicians that there are. There’s nothing he can’t do!”
-Guy Davis, WC Handy award winner, musician, composer, actor and director.
Christopher Singing Hawk James' musical journey began at the age of five when he got his first guitar. His mother and uncle taught him a few chords and simple songs and he was hooked. Hours spent listening to his dad's eclectic record collection introduced James to everything from jazz to country to classical to rock & roll. Shortly after getting his first electric guitar at the age of thirteen Christopher's dad took him to Philadelphia to hear BB King at the River Blues Festival. The power, warmth and honesty of BB King's blues set James on the path he has followed ever since. While still in his teens Christopher headed south to live in the land where blues began performing with various blues groups from Clarksdale, Mississippi to Dallas, Texas. After returning to Maryland James founded his own group and went on to win the Baltimore Blues Society's Blues Challenge contest and to be a finalist in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee. In Memphis "They played a blistering 30 minute set, demonstrating tight dynamics, outstanding showmanship and originality." (BluesRag v. 16, issue 2 Bob Sekinger). He has released five CD's which have been played on stations such as WRNR (103.1) and WPFW (89.3). The last CD, Out of Wooden Boxes, received two Wammie nominations from the Washington Area Music Association for Best Blues Recording and Best Blues Vocalist. After his father died Christopher immersed himself in learning to play the mandolin, an instrument played by his great-grandfather who immigrated to the US from Italy and his older cousin, Michael Sassano, who is a well known mandolinist in the northeast. Christopher's mandolin playing is featured on the latest release, When the moon gets high tonight: The Blues Mandolin Experience.
Christopher's love of music is expressed in his songwriting, singing, and playing on the mandolin, acoustic and electric guitar, harmonica and ukulele. He has written over a hundred and fifty songs and recently cowrote a song with Tim OBrien. He has performed with or opened for such luminaries as John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Etta James, Guy Davis, Professor Louie and the Crowmatix, Roomful of Blues, Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers, Ralph Stanley and many others. He and his band have performed at clubs, theaters and festivals from New York City to Dallas, Texas including Artscape (Baltimore, MD), Baltimore Blues Festival, Roots Music and Arts Festival (Westminster, MD) which also featured Buckwheat Zydeco and Jesse McReynolds and the Common Ground on the Hill Concert Series which has also featured Pete Seeger, Cephas & Wiggins, Tony Trischka, Jay Ungar & Molly Mason, Tom Chapin and Happy Traum. James has taught classes in Blues Mandolin and New Orleans guitar for the past three years at Common Ground on the Hill alongside such greats as Barry Mitterhoff (mandolin, Hot Tuna), Guy Davis and Professor Louie.
The latest CD, When the moon gets high tonight: The Blues Mandolin Experience, was recorded at LRS recording studio in Hurley, NY with Professor Louie, who co-produced, engineered and performed on The Band's last three CDs and produced and performed with Graham Parker, Commander Cody, The New Riders Of The Purple Sage, Guy Davis, Ireland's Four Men and a Dog and Rick Danko, and at Signature Soul Studios in Westminster, MD with Gordon Masters. The CD features all original songs by Christopher James from rocking blues and grooving R&B to slow and sexy love songs. James sings and plays mandolin, acoustic and electric guitar, harmonica and tambourine. Additional percussion is played by the skilled jazz and middle eastern percussionist Jon Seligman. The CD explores the many sounds of the mandolin which is not usually associated with the blues. James' search for the roots of musical styles has led him to the blues and rags of the early 1900's as played on the mandolin by such musicians as Yank Rachell, Charlie McCoy and Carl Martin and his creative urge has led him to imagine what it would sound like to hear the music of John Lee Hooker or Otis Redding on the mandolin and then to create music using these ideas. When the moon gets high tonight: The Blues Mandolin Experience is the latest chapter in Christopher Singing Hawk James' musical journey which began many years ago and will continue as long as his heart keeps beating to the rhythm.