Jim Stephens is the kind of guy you can’t size up. Upbeat with a classic Irish smile, with a little bit of mischief and at least as much heartbreak in his eyes. Salt of the earth with a good amount of spice, Jim Stephens is anachronistic, hearkening back to a time of real men and real grit. Or maybe he’s one of the real seeds that we look to when our transparent copies of life are wearing thin. Or maybe it’s all still real – the heartbreak, the saloons, the gritty life on the street, the dust bowl of humanity that we all miss while we’re busy daydreaming inside the matrix.
And so, it is Jim Stephens that purposefully takes us back to the core with his upcoming release, Boxcar Blues. Deliberately acoustic, deliberately lo-fi, Jimmy wanted to capture the raw feel of the old days with the simple purpose of pointing out that they still exist under the polish and sheen. When asked about the recording, Jimmy says is best:
'It is the foundation, the content, the art form, the desperation, the darkness, the honesty, the root of that all American music has stemmed from. So am I saying that I made a 1940's chitlin’ circuit record in 2017 …? Well, maybe I am. And maybe that is needed today. In style, content, education, and the literal for folks looking in the mirror of the human condition addressing suicide, abuse, addiction, and fear of themselves, and others leaving this world alone and dumped into a state-run Paupers grave.'
There is a certain jarring feeling when you first listen to Box Car Blues, as if the mind and body are trying to avoid an uncomfortable truth. Like all great music, a few more listens reveal the beauty within. One can reference Son House, Skip James, Blind Willie McTell, Townes Van Zandt, or even early Beck. We encourage you to take it for a spin and let the honesty of this record breathe in your ears and in your mind.
Jim Stephens has taught music and ensemble performance in Biloxi, MS; Homestead, FL; Port Au Prince, Haiti; Gonaives, Haiti; and Tamil Nadu India. He has also co-taught in inter-discipline arts programs.
Jim has also been a panelist, speaker, and curator in numerous arts, art education, and music business forums. He has also designed and taught a class/ interactive lecture/presentation on the artist's responsibility to society which will be introduced into classrooms in Philadelphia in 2015. Additionally, Jim was also a judge at the Russell Simmons and HBO Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry competition in July, 2014 in Philadelphia.
Jim is also the founder and presenter of Mermaid Rescue Week. An annual week long festival in benefit and support of domestic violence and rape survivor advocacy. The event is the 3rd week in June every year in Philadelphia, with 2017 being the 3rd year, and the 1st year will be in New Orleans in September 2017.
Jim can regularly, and has been seen around New Orleans sitting in and performing with a who's who of musicians including Big Sam's Funky Nation, The Soul Rebels, Russell Batiste, Mainline, Johnny V, Honey Island Swamp Band, and countless others, as well as pick up shows and jam sessions.
All lyrics and music by Jim Stephens Except:
Mississippi Flu, Lyrics by Jim Stephens. Music by Jim Stephens, Will Winborne, Jr., Ja-Tun Thomas
His Eye is On The Sparrow, Down By The Riverside, and Mother Pray - Traditional
Baby Please Don’t Go - Big Joe Williams
Picture in a Frame - Ben Harper/Ward/Nelson/Yates/Charles/Mobley -
ALL Production and Arrangement by Jim Stephens, with additional production, arrangement credits:
By My Side - Arranged and Produced by Jim Stephens, Scott Coulter, and Sarah Crowell
Mother Pray – Produced by Jim Stephens, Sarah Crowell
Box Car Blues – Produced by Jim Stephens, Chuck Treece, Stan Davis, Andre “BoyWonder” Coles
Mississippi Flu - Produced by Jim Stephens, Ja-Tun Thomas, Will Winborne, Jr.
Baby Please Don’t Go - Produced and Arranged by Jim stephens, Ja-Tun Thomas, and Dave Schonauer
Mother Mary - Produced and Arranged by Jim Stephens, Ja-Tun Thomas, Dave Schonauer
Torture Me - Produced and Arranged by Jim Stephens, Andre “BoyWonder” Coles, Eric Bogacz
Down By The Riverside - Produced and Arranged by Jim Stephens, Ja-Tun Thomas, and Dave Schonauer
Lost Souls Cavern - Produced by Jim Stephens and Andre “BoyWonder” Coles
Eye on the Sparrow - Produced by Jim Stephens Ja-Tun Thomas
Mixed at Morning Star Studios by Dave Shonauer.
Mastered at Morning Star Studios by Glenn Barratt.
All songs written by Jim Stephens, Except:
Waiting for You by Ben Harper © 2005 off of Both Sides of the Gun Album: And John The Revelator, Traditional written by Son House
All songs produced by Jim Stephens
All songs songs arranged by Jim Stephens and Andre Coles
Jim Stephens: all harmonica and electric guitars
Boy Wonder: vocals and acoustic guitars
Mike Tyler: bottleneck slide on Bluebird
Tracks 1-8 recorded live by Mike Tyler at the Dungeon
Tracks 9-10 recorded live by Boy Wonder at Boy Wonder’s Lair
Cover art by: Toni Cannon: Toni@ToniCannon.com
Copyright 2017 Jim Stephens
All rights reserved
“Vision, influences, reasons, details”
"The album was recorded live over a couple of nights at Col. Mike Tyler’s “The Dungeon”. (Mike has produced, and performed with and recorded for everyone from LL Cool J’s unplugged, Tribe Called Quest, Billy Joel, Prince, Pearl Jam, G Love, The Fugees, and countless others, and was in house guitarist and producer for RuffHouse Records and Studio 4.
The vision was simple and easy for me. I have always wanted to record a delta blues and roots record. Raw. Un-pretty. Unsettling. I’ve always been a big blues kid and the influence and those roots come through on songs like “The Yellow” “Drowned Canvas” from On Our Way To Forever, and pretty much all of Philasippiola Soul. From the original full band song “Box Car Blues,” to “Poor Girl,” “Keep On,” “Torture Me,” etc. The opportunity to do an album so raw and acoustic in the manner and my original influences – even pre-jazz and soul influences, is a dream come true. The sounds, quality, every note is as deliberate as it is improved on the spot. There were no rehearsals, everything was live. I brought all of these songs to Boy Wonder as we were recording, and he slayed every one of them. Mike Tyler jumped in on “Bluebird” with some last minute bottleneck, with a High Life bottle. The songs are mostly dark, unsettling, and gritty. The happenstance crackling on “Waiting for you,” the way the sound is on “Death Bed Dreamin,” the way Boy Wonder’s vocals distorted the mic at the end of “Rebel Rouser” and “Loose Lipped Woman,” and just topically, I think I was able to accomplish what I set out to do.
I feel with the deliberate quality and honesty of this literal art, and in the homage and respect and tradition of all who laid the ground work for all American music, there is something everyone can relate to on the human condition, their own or a loved one’s. Of course nothing was getting by Mike if something wasn’t what it should have been. This album is an offering between the two FTBB records.
I, and we, also know that people don’t make records like this anymore. And we’re okay with that. A lot of people in mainstream audiences won’t understand it. It’s an album for the traditional blues, and roots purists. It’s honest. I’m sure other professional and touring artists will also have a deep appreciation. Hopefully we can open some new ears and educate some folks to this tradition of expressing sorrow and tragedy through storytelling, in this format and art form."
- Jim Stephens