Never one to follow convention, and always one to think for himself, Nathan James has created a musical identity with his homemade instruments and self taught skills. Whether you catch Nathan James as his true one man band pickin’ and scratchin’ on his own invention of washboard guitar, stomping out time on his custom suitcase drum set while singing and blowing harmonica or kazoo; or leading his new trio The Rhythm Scratchers, you are sure to be moved and impressed with the unique energy and soul that he possesses. Nathan James is a well respected and experienced artist in his field. For 15 years now, he has successfully made his living touring and recording, solely specializing on his passion of blues, and American roots music. Starting his career of full time gigging musician at age 18, Nathan is no stranger to live performance.
Drawing from a deep well of influences from many early roots artists and styles, James was quickly attracted to the individuality of self made music and artistic expression. While simultaneously discovering the guitar and the blues at age 13, Nathan James has since been in complete focus as to where his life goal would lead. Growing up in the small town of Fallbrook Ca, has been influential in deciding to choose this path. “There wasn’t a lot to do here, so you either got in trouble, or found something productive to do!” Having supportive parents that didn’t force him into the usual college after high school allowed Nathan to go straight into the ‘real working world’ of playing music. “Part of it was luck that I was able to get paying gigs right off the bat!” Local San Diego blues bands the Blues Pharaohs and Billy Watson gave Nathan a chance to get his feet wet with enough local gigs to support himself literally a month after graduating high school! This led to also working with well known Southern California blues acts Jamie Wood, and Johnny Dyer. At age 19 Nathan got the call from internationally known blues veteran James Harman to join his band and tour the country. With Harman is where he gained the experience that has shaped most of his own career.
After touring and recording nonstop with Harman for 3 1/2 years, Nathan decided to have a go at literally a solo career- that is playing one man acoustic based blues. This was instantly successful, leading to playing over 30 gigs a month at times. With the strain of carrying the entire show by yourself all the time, Nathan met up with harmonica player/vocalist Ben Hernandez, a like minded young blues roots musician aficionado, and together they started working as a duo. As word spread of these two and their ability to bring back to life the spirit of duos like Sonny Terry and Brownie Mcghee, they gained international notoriety while traveling all over the West Coast and in 2007, they entered the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, and took 1st place! They made their way to the 2008 Edmonton Blues Festival shortly thereafter. And we weren’t the only stop for the talented pair…That year alone the duo traveled to Denmark, Italy and Taiwan. Currently Nathan’s Rhythm Scratchers are forging a cumulative sound that combines elements of 1920’s acoustic blues, amplified juke joint hill country, and 1950’s uptown blues mixed with 1960’s soulful R&B! Influences range from Tampa Red, to B.B. King, to James Brown and the Famous Flames. This is not your average blues power trio that leans towards the much abused “blues rock” formula. Instead each member in the band knows all the nuances of the different feels and tones. Knowing how to get people’s attention, Nathan will often go out solo from the bandstand and burst into a frenzied ragtime breakdown that can lead to a washboard solo on his custom LED lit ‘Washtar Gitboard’! Another unique aspect of a live show is band mate Troy Sandow. He may start off the set on upright bass while Nathan will play an uptown lead guitar style in the vein of B.B. or T-bone Walker. Then he will switch over to amplified harmonica and Nathan will fingerpick a driving groove on his baritone guitar in the style of R.L. Burnside or Lightnin’ Hopkins. Rock solid drummer Marty Dodson rounds out the trio. Although Nathan’s band pays homage to these traditions and has the same quality of musicianship, there is an original and fresh new energy coming from musicians of a much younger generation.