extended play

by Ryan Snyder

TA James captures solo/ duo blues challenge

Andy Squint, Sherman Lee Dillon runners up

Durham’s TA James, a first-time entry in the solo/duo competition took home first prize in the 2011 Blues Challenge, presented by the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society. The solo/duo competition, the second of two separate events, took place Oct. 23, at Zion Bar & Grille, in Greensboro. Andy Squint of High Point, who placed third in the 2010 solo/duo event, finished second. Cary’s Sherman Lee Dillon came in third. There were 10 total performers in two qualifying rounds, with six acts moving to the final round.

As first place finisher, TA James will now represent the PBPS in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn. Jan. 31-Feb. 4, sponsored by the Blues Foundation. James also received a cash prize, as did the secondand third-place finishers.

TA James is no stranger to the Triad and Triangle blues scene. He currently plays bass with Mel Melton & the Wicked Mojos, who gig regularly at Mel’s club, Papa Mojo’s Roadhouse, in Durham. Mel and the Wicked Mojos also play all over the state and parts of the Southeast. James has also freelanced as bassist and guitarist with such regional blues greats as Tad Walters, Matt Hill & the Buzzkills, Matt Walsh and Josh Preslar. In addition to his work with North Carolina blues artists, TA played bass and toured internationally with the legendary blues harp player Carey Bell. He also performed on Bell’s Blues Music Award-winning album Good Luck Man. His qualifying and final round mixed in versions of songs by Tampa Red and Mose Allison along with some of his own compositions.

Andy Squint, a transplanted Baton Rouge, La. native now living in High Point, finished second. In his first appearance in 2010, Squint placed third. “I’m climbing up slowly,” he quipped after receiving his prize. Squint also appeared at the 25th Annual Carolina Blues Festival, presented by YES! Weekly at the second stage.

Third place finisher Sherman Lee Dillon of Cary accompanied himself on dobro and harmonica.