For his eighth CD, Jim Newsom chose to record a true “solo album.” On the 2018 release New Set of Dreams, he plays all the instruments on a set of fifteen original songs. There are no artificial instruments–no synthesizers, programmed drums or sampled sounds–just a rich blend of guitars, flutes, piano, bass, drums and all sorts of percussion. The result is a diverse mix of sounds, styles and lyrical topics that stands out above the crowded mass of contemporary musical conformity.
The upbeat title track sets the tone as the singer-songwriter reflects on the life he’s led thus far, proclaiming “I’m drawing up plans for a brand new set of dreams.” The companion piece, “The Next Transition,” similarly looks at the journey through a life well lived and advises “Open your heart, expand your mind; Unclench your fists, don’t look behind.”
“Fender Rhodes Piano and a Jesus Handle” tells the true story of a college kid’s summer job by day and garage band by night. There’s the Beethoven adaptation, “Road to Joy,” the wistful beauty of “Virginia,” the childhood summer memories of “Talking Like Horses,” the fun-filled love song “Sunflowers on the Moon.” And of course there are a couple of songs reflecting Jim’s social and political consciousness, “A Matter of Color” and “Harness the Sun.”
“Mint Chocolate Chip” is a three-minute slice of jazz flute. “Turning In, Looking Out” came out of the painful dissolution of a significant musical partnership, while “Street Singer” came from Jim’s long-ago days busking on the sidewalks of Greenwich Village. “If I Had Wings” is a personalized update of a timeless traditional folk song, while “Saxophones” recalls happy times listening to records with a special someone. The album closes with a lighthearted holiday original, “Christmas Lights.”
Well known throughout southeastern Virginia, Jim Newsom is a uniquely talented singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He received Honorable Mention recognition at the 2018 Woody Guthrie Songwriting Contest for “Last Anti-War Song” and was nominated in four categories in the 2018 VEER Music Awards, the regional version of the Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year and Song of the Year.
A professional musician for more than forty years, he’s led rock, jazz and acoustic bands, most recently the duo Mountaintide, with whom he recorded and released two albums of original material as well as a CD of children’s music. Their first CD, Dancing in the Sun, was released in June 2015, followed by the children’s album, Away We Go, in November 2015. Coffee & Fried Steak, came out in June, 2017.
Jim’s original songs cover a wide range of styles and touch on a diverse range of subject matter: The environmental anthem “Open Spaces,” the journey up “460 West to Blacksburg,” the singalong folk song “Colors of the Rainbow,” the lyrical potency of “Growing Guns on Trees,” teenage memories from 1969 in “A Mighty Cry.” His “Last Anti-War Song” was nominated for Song of the Year in the VEER Music Awards.
Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Jim grew up in Suffolk, Virginia, graduating from Suffolk High School and Virginia Tech. He’s been a popular musician regionally since the mid-1970s. He is also a highly regarded music writer and critic whose work has been published in the All Music Guide, PortFolio Weekly and VEER Magazine among many print and online publications. He is well known throughout the area as a popular television personality, having hosted programs on the local PBS and NPR affiliates for thirty five years.
He first played music as a youngster after picking up the basics from his sister’s piano lesson books. He subsequently drove his parents crazy banging out rock and roll on the family’s living room piano. In high school, he bought a flute for $25.00 from a girlfriend in the marching band, and taught himself to play by listening to the recordings of Herbie Mann and Jethro Tull. He learned guitar from a Bob Dylan songbook.
In recent years, Jim has performed at major regional festivals including Norfolk’s Harborfest, Chesapeake Jubilee, Stockley Gardens Arts Festival, Seawall Art Show, Chelsea Summer Solstice Festival, the ETC Festival and the Norfolk Folk Festival. He has headlined special events like the Norfolk Harbor Party, Cultural Alliance Brew at the Zoo, D’Art Affair and Taste of Chesapeake; played concerts at the Naro Theatre, the American Theatre, Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, the Pretlow and Slover Libraries in Norfolk, the Hampton History Museum and the Virginia Beach Central Library. He regularly performs in restaurants and coffeehouses, craft breweries and art centers, and at corporate conventions and private functions throughout southeastern Virginia from Suffolk to the Eastern Shore. He’s also been featured on regional television and radio programs such as Out of the Box, Hunter at Sunrise, Acoustic Highway, the Hampton Roads Show, Coast Live and Norfolk Perspectives.
2018: Jim Newsom – New Set of Dreams
2017: Mountaintide – Coffee & Fried Steak
2015: Holly – Away We Go (children’s music)
2015: Mountaintide – Dancing in the Sun
2004: Jim Newsom Sextet – Jazz on the James (featuring Tommy Newsom)
2003: Jim Newsom Quartet – Swingin’ on Granby Street
1999: Jim Newsom and the PorchRockers – On the Prowl
1992: Jim Newsom – Crazy Dreams