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James King

James King

James King, Eddie Holstein 

When: Tue., Dec. 31, 7 p.m. 2013
Price: $10-$20, $30 VIP
In 2005 Virginia singer James King released The Bluegrass Storyteller (Rounder), whose title alludes to his preference for compelling narratives rather than personal meditations or questions of faith. King loves a good yarn, which explains why he’s always included traditional country in his live sets and studio sessions. His first new studio album since 2005 is called Three Chords and the Truth (Rounder)—Harland Howard’s famous description of a good country song—and all dozen tracks are hard-core country covers, among them a proto-honky-tonk number by Hank Williams (“The Devil’s Train”), a forgotten gem by Vern Gosdin (“Chiseled in Stone”), and a ubiquitous George Jones masterpiece (“He Stopped Loving Her Today”). Of course, King is hardly the only contemporary bluegrass artist to raid Nashville’s huge repertoire, but few remain so true to bluegrass fundamentals in the process. He and his crack band preserve the soulful melodies and add unflashy instrumental kick, sticking to a bona fide bluegrass lineup—just acoustic guitar, banjo, upright bass, mandolin, and fiddle, with veterans Don Rigsby and Dudley Connell adding harmony vocals. King, who once worked with Ralph Stanley, has a firm grip on the same sort of country phrasing that Jones perfected, in which unexpected dips, climbs, and curlicues inject emotion that goes beyond the meaning of the words. King performs as part of the revived citywide First Night Evanston celebration, and his concert is copresented by Chip Covington of the invaluable Chicago Bluegrass Legends series. —Peter Margasak Eddie Holstein opens, and both acts play two sets.

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