“For those who had never seen Otis Redding or Aretha Franklin perform, go to a concert of Bruce James and Bella Black – this is the best option to close your eyes and go back to pure American sound whose songs echo to this day, for connoisseurs and non-connoisseurs alike. Bruce with his street poetry - "past tense is no more than last night's wine" - Bella with her voice that tears thoughts and frees the mind of the listener.”
Voci di Citta - Bologna IT
"Guerrilla Soul is the recipe that Bruce James and Bella Black have mixed together in their Texan Sound Kitchen: A deep-fried, inside still pink, filet of New Orleans Soul à la Dr. John, soaked in a marinade of clubby R&B and organ heavy ZZ Top cover versions; with a pinch of hip-hop and the whole thing served on the funky beats of DJ Phil Ross.”
Zeit.de - Hamburg DE
"With voices reinforced by concrete saws, earning the duo much respect and reminding us of the origins of soul music the church! Bruce James is perhaps one of the most colorful artists from Austin. Behind his music, brewed from an original mix of Soul, New Orleans R & B and blues lies a musical career that spans over twenty years. Consistency is his penchant for the musical roots of American music. As a pianist/ singer of the legendary band Tunji he shared the stage with Bernie Worrell, Jurassic5 and other giants of the music world. Bella Black is a woman with a story and has a voice among the most poignant in contemporary southern soul who actually says it all." Muziekhuis.nl - Leiden NL
“a piano man that can swing and croon like Dr. John, or growl and stomp like Tom Waits.”
The Austin Chronicle - Austin TX USA
"For here are two musicians at the beginning of their breakthrough. One that we give them wholeheartedly." Rootstime.be - Belgium
James & Black
Bruce James and Bella Black joined musical forces in Austin, Texas in 2011 and have been on a mission spreading the word of Guerrilla Soul ever since. The roots of their music spring from the tradition of Southern Soul from Texas, New Orleans and Memphis, yet they are not a throwback. The foundation of James & Black is the voices and stories in their songs. For this duo though, it is all about the musical canvas being the dirt for the flowers, so to speak – fertile soil for the tune itself to grow.
Since relocating to Europe in the summer of 2012, James & Black has laid a foundation in Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Bulgaria, the UK and now Slovakia playing close to 150 shows per year and covering over 700,000km in the process.
They have supported Gregory Porter and Fatoumata Diawara in Leiden NL at Summer Jazz, Candy Dulfer in Amsterdam at Vondelpark, performed at the Porretta Soul Festival three times now in Porretta Terme, Italy alongside artists such as Bobby Rush and Lattimore, Clay Hammond, performed at the Enclave de Agua in Soria, Spain with the likes of Lee Fields and Nikki Hill, performed at the Barcelona International Jazz Festival, and have supported New Yorkers', the Slackers, throughout Germany and Austria. In April 2017 they performed at the Baltic Soul Weekender with Sister Sledge, Lenny Williams and CeCe Penniston near Hamburg, Germany and performed a tribute to Allen Toussaint at the Porretta Soul Festival. James and Black also appeared at Peer Blues festival with fellow Texans ZZ Top, Jools Holland and the Blind Boys of Alabama.
2018 found the pair playing to a sold out MUPA (Hungarian Palace of Arts) in Budapest with Little Gee Weevil, at the Thrill Blues Festival in Croatia, headlining Kapana Fest in Plovdiv BG, a successful first tour in the UK with Sam Kelly & Richard Sadler and supporting the legendary David Murray and Saul Williams at the Avignon Bridge Festival in France.
This past spring they toured in China for the first time, headlining the Shanghai Spring fest.
James & Black has released a live album, recorded in Belgium (2012) at the famous “N9" club, as well as their first studio album, “How Long is Now” recorded in Italy, in May 2015. "James & Black - Live at La Chapelle" (Paris FR) was released in November 2016 and features Felix Sabal Lecco, Nicolas Thys with DJ Phil Ross and their second studio album, "This Time", produced by Jean-Pol Van Ham at Magnet Studios in Bruxelles BE, in July 2017 with release tours in Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Belgium, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary, United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
With the pandemic world-wide, touring, for everyone, has come to a screeching halt. This has allowed them the time to recharge and finish the recordings they started last spring in Antwerp BE with regular band mates Jordi Geuens (drums), Erik Rademakers (bass) and Jeroen Capens (saxophone). Longtime band members Fumihito Sugawara and Max Benassi were able to add the proverbial icing on this multinational cake with their guitar work.
"Be Water, My Love" consists of four new compositions and adds a new element, not found on their past two albums, with Bella rapping on two of the tracks. The rhythm tracks were recorded live and capture the energy that is the trademark of a James & Black performance. As always, the focus is the lyrics and the stories being told in the songs. Bruce and Bella have a story to tell and it's high time the States heard about them.