West Texas guitar-slinger Seth James survives four years in label limbo 

Seth James trudged a long, twisting road on the way to his sophomore album, "That Kind of Man," which was held up by four years of legal wrangling and label turnover, during which the West Texas singer/songwriter bided his time and paid the bills penning commercial music.

The trouble started when his guitar-slinging Western blues caught the ear of Sony Music reps, leading to a contract that seemed like a career breakthrough. But after Sony merged with BMG, James was left in limbo.

"The guy that had signed me had got let loose, so I basically had to re-audition, even though I had already started working on 'That Kind of Man,'" James said, adding that because of contracts with Sony, he couldn't leave that label until it decided what it was going to do with him.

Underground Sound took over the project, but after a four-year lapse, James worried that his fan base wouldn't connect with it anymore.

"It is a little scary to not put out music in four years since people change fast," he said. "When you finally do put out new music to the fans, you cross your fingers and hope you didn't grow away from them, but that worry has passed."

Falling in line with the prototypical Texas sound, James blends pleasantly gruff vocals with relaxed country melodies. Released this week, the album's title track is a pensive acoustic number written early in the process, and used as the measuring stick for the rest of the disc.

"It was by no way a pop song or one I thought would be a hit, but it was a song that represented who I was at the time, so I made it the title track," James said. "From then on, every time I would write a song, I would make the decision about whether it would be part of the album."

He said he's thrilled with how the album ultimately came out, giving partial credit to his decision to fill his downtime writing commercial music.

"Getting a publishing deal was one of the best things that ever happened to my music career," he said. "It made me disciplined, forcing me to sit down and write whether I am in the mood or not. I have to finish what I start before I go on to the next idea"

A newfound, hard-earned dedication to his career " coupled with a more savvy knowledge of the music industry " means that James' won't have to wait another four years for another new album.

"No, sir, not under any circumstances," he said, with a chuckle. "I plan on starting work on the next one as soon as possible."

Seth James with Fabulous Disasters performs at 10 p.m. Monday at Wormy Dog Saloon, 311 E. Sheridan. "Charles Martin


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