An evening of acoustic blues

St. Clair Productions presents the blues duo Nathan James and Ben Hernandez in concert at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8, at the Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 87 Fourth St., Ashland.

James and Hernandez were the audience's favorite acoustic blues act at last January's 8th Annual Rogue Valley Blues Festival. They are returning to do a whole evening's worth of Delta, Piedmont, hill country, ragtime and jug band blues.

In February, 2007, James and Hernandez took first place in the solo/duo category of the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. They've had tours in Denmark and Italy, performed in Taiwan, played several times on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise, and at Portland's Waterfront Blues Festival, the largest West Coast blues festival.

James and Hernandez share vocal duties, switching off from song to song or harmonizing. They also play a host of instruments, some homemade. James plays electric and acoustic guitars, harmonica and a suitcase foot-percussion board made out of an old, light-blue Skyway suitcase. With a lever system made from parts purchased at the local hardware store, and an old coffee can attached to the suitcase, James creates a snare-like back beat.

Hernandez plays the harmonica, spoons, jug, kazoo, washboard and a big, 17-gallon gut bucket bass. On the top of the bass, he mounted a chrome skull shifter knob he took from his old car.

Hernandez has performed throughout California with his own bands including Brickyard Jones and the Double Fives. Specializing in the pre-war, acoustic blues styles, Hernandez has committed himself to preserving an almost lost musical genre while still stamping his own distinct mark. His musical influences include Sonny Terry, Peg Leg Sam, Sonny Boy Williamson #1, Hammie Nixon, and Noah Lewis.

James performs in Southern California with the James Harman Band. He started out as guitarist for the Blues Pharohs, then joined Billy Watson's band at age 18. He played in bands with Johnny Dyer and Jamie Wood before joining the James Harman band at age 19.

James also has worked with Johnny Rover, Big Mo' Band, Nena Anderson, Blue Largo, Robin Henkel, Janiva Magness, Gary Primich, Hollywood Blue Flames, and Rick Holmstrom. His primary influences include Brownie McGhee, Big Bill Broonzy, Tampa Red, and Blind Boy Fuller.

The duo has three CDs. Their latest, "Hollerin," won a San Diego Music Award in September for best blues album. Their first CD, "Make A Change Sometime," received a San Diego Music Award Nomination in 2005.

Tickets are $18 in advance, $20 at the door, and $10 for youths 12-17. Children under 12 admitted free with a paying adult. Tickets are available at the Music Coop, Ashland; online at; or by calling 535-3562.

Share This Story