You may have noticed a new man about town, strutting his way throughout venues and folk jams. Nicholas St. James has been in the area for a few years, but has a music career that’s starting to take off in Lawrence.

The folk musician is lovely inside and out. The man dons canary yellow from head to toe, a boisterous beard, and a gregarious attitude. When you speak to him in casual conversation, his tone is pleasant (much like his lovable attitude) and his high-pitched voice is inviting in any setting. All these characteristics are what make his live show such a shocking surprise.

By the sound of his singing voice, you never would have guessed that this was such an upbeat fellow. Nicholas St. James has one of the gruffest, rawest, and gnarliest voices in the scene. His vocals reek of heartbreak, and his impressive guitar work is delightfully aggressive. He likes to experiment and meddle with effects on his acoustic guitar that are normally reserved for electric. Think of him as a local Jack White (his color palette makes this resemblance even more noticeable). He sounds like he’s been living the gypsy blues life for decades. It’s hard to believe that such an intense, gut-wrenching growl can come out of such a pleasant fella.

His onstage presence immediately draws you in. He peppers in several covers to his live set, constantly bouncing around and flailing that beautiful Jim James-esque mane of his. It’s hard to turn away from such an enigmatic performer.

Here’s a cover of “Old No. 7” he busted out on Friday evening at the Replay:

And here’s one of his originals (a slower number).

Expect great things from Nicholas St. James. He’s been showing up more often in the local scene, indulging in all the local music Lawrence has to offer. This is generally a good sign in a local musician. The best trait a performer here can have is supporting his scene and taking it all in. In Nicholas St. James’ case, it’s paying off in spades.

Words and photos by Fally Afani

Editor’s note: You can catch Nicholas St. James’ next set this Friday at Frank’s North Star Tavern.

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