Our Stories – Staying Home with Samuel James

Usually Samuel James is on the road many weeks of the year, but since March of 2020 he has been spending all his time, like most of us, in Maine. This has been lucky for Ovations and our audiences, as it allowed us to invite him to participate as one of our five Commissioned Maine Artists.

Knowing his background in music education, we also knew it would be a perfect fit for him to create a virtual piece for our school and family audiences.

If you’ve been to one of his performances you know that they’re part concert, part storytelling and part history lesson. Samuel James Tells the Story of Tiny Bill McGraw continues that distinctive combination. This original composition introduces some of the musical and instrumental components of the Blues while also making clear the pain, joy and resistance that Blues and roots music embody for African Americans. This is then woven with a lovely tale of a boy and his grandfather, and their afternoons together.


Samuel’s knowledge of and passion for this convergence of music and history is powerful. During one of our conversations, as we were discussing additional context to share in our Audience Guide, Samuel pulled out a guitar to show rather than tell what he was talking about. He effortlessly improvised what he couldn’t say with words. It’s that enthusiasm and artistry that shines through in all of his work.

Samuel is a person of many talents so after you’ve enjoyed The Story of Tiny Bill McGraw spend some time on his website to get to know more of his music, writing, storytelling and filmmaking talents. We also look forward to being LIVE with Samuel this Saturday at 10AM. We hope to see you there!