James Alan Shelton has served as lead guitarist with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys for the past 16 years, taking him all over the world with the good Doctor. Along the way, Shelton has released 10 recordings of his music plus an instructional DVD with Clinch Mountain guitar legend George Shuffler.
On stage with Ralph, James is in the background, though he does emcee the show. On his recordings, however, he is out front as vocalist and lead and rhythm guitar. His latest CD, Where I’m Bound, has him also featured on bass, banjo and mandolin, plus lead vocals.
The material has a more folk-flavored theme, though the arrangements and performances are clearly mainstream bluegrass. James has a deep, rich voice and on several songs calls to mind the late, great Charlie Waller. Of course, The Country Gentlemen had made their bones bringing folk songs into the bluegrass repertoire – including their 1969 version of Where I’m Bound – and you can feel Shelton’s appreciation for their music on this album.
In addition to the title track (from Tom Paxton), there are folk classics like Donovan’s Catch The Wind, Woody Guthie’s Pastures Of Plenty, along with Rose Conley, Danny Boy, and several others. In an interesting twist, he also includes an acoustic version of Buckaroo, the theme song of Buck Owens and the Buckaroos back in the day, and an instrumental take on Lennon and McCartney’s I’ll Follow The Sun.
The only guests on the record are Dewey Brown on fiddle, Audey Ratliff on rhythm mandolin, and Savannah Vaughn and Dan Moneyhun on harmony vocals. With ony a few exceptions, all the tracking was done at Shelton’s home studio.
James acknowledged the unlikeliness of some of the material in his liner notes.
“I decided to stretch out a bit on this album, and do some things that you wouldn’t expect to hear from a traditional bluegrass guitar player who was born and raised in the Clinch Mountains. My intentions are not to dazzle you with fancy hot licks, but to just play some good melody oriented songs. As I have said before, a good song is a good song, no matter the source and I hope that you will enjoy the final result as much as I did in doing the recording.”