One such performer is Crown Point troubadour James Ruelas, whose acoustic guitar-based sound is so vintage authentic that he recently released his debut album, “I Shall Not Be Moved,” exclusively on vinyl, though with a download card.
The album finds Ruelas playing full band numbers as well as solo material, but in this computer age, why vinyl?
“Listening to vinyl is how I learned to play,” said Ruelas. “The feel of an LP in my hand is one of life’s little pleasures. It really sounds great on vinyl. I know that’s a cliché, but it’s really true on this album. I’ve actually thought about recording the sound from the vinyl to use for mp3 and CDs.”
Ruelas’ take on music has begun to bring him acclaim and a busy performance schedule. Upcoming shows at the Tin Can Alehouse (Feb. 13) and Black Cat (March 15), as well as a coveted residency at downtown hotspot Prohibition on Friday and Saturday nights.
A native San Diegan, Ruelas grew up in Linda Vista. He credits his father for kicking off his love of music.
“My dad gave me my first guitar when I was 10,” he said. “It was a classical guitar with three strings and a hole in the back. He showed me how to play a Spanish riff. And the bass line from ‘Gloria.’”
Ruelas soon joined his school’s music program.
“The first time I played for people was in middle school jazz band. The teacher gave me a solo during a recital but he made me keep my amp real low so the crowd couldn’t hear me. I wasn’t very good,” he said. “I hardly ever showed up to that class. I was more interested in learning from my dad’s record collection than learning how to read music.”
He cites his influences as “early country blues, early New Orleans jazz, soul music and, of course, first generation rock and roll. I play the music I play because it speaks to me. The deep humanity and heavy soul of this music has been a beacon to me since I was a child.”
While he generally plays solo, that’s not a strict rule.
“I play with what I got,” he said. “I always drag my friends out to pick and sing some tunes. Sometimes I can pull in a drummer and a bass player. It’s all about giving the show everything I can that day.”
“I Shall Not Be Moved” was recorded in two sessions, one at famed Studio West and one recorded in friend (and Scarlet Symphony frontman) Gary Hankins’ living room.
“Two of the tunes are from early recordings, the slower version of “Opium Tango” and “Deacon Jim,” he said. “With the studio tracks, I was very fortunate to work with some real class acts. Peter Dyson played drums, Jeff Pekarek played bass. The entire process probably took less than 20 studio hours.”
Although he has yet to tour, he has played in Europe.
“Officially, I’ve only played out of San Diego one time, but I spent time busking in Italy and Spain,” he said.
More recording is already in the planning stages, but for now the focus is on gigging. While he enjoys performing live, he said things don’t always go as planned, even if you’re not on stage.
“I let a guy borrow my Gibson for a few tunes once. When I went to the rest room, the chef at the joint came out from the kitchen and threw a tomato at the performer. It missed the guy and hit my guitar square in the sound hole,” he laughed.
For more information, visit www.jimmyruelas.com.