Folk-blues singer-guitarist Jim Pharis keeps it simple on High Mileage. Most of the songs on his made-in-Lafayette album feature Pharis’ finger-style acoustic guitar playing and deadpan, rather odd but amiable singing sans accompaniment. When A.J. Primeaux steps in for a few harmonica guest spots, it’s a nice touch.
For High Mileage, Pharis performs several of his original songs and some blues and gospel standards, including the late New Orleans singer-guitarist Snooks Eaglin’s “I’m a Country Boy.”
Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’ may be the most famous contemporary examples of the acoustic folk-blues style Pharis pursues in High Mileage. Pharis’ influences include the folk boom of the 1960s, Nashville guitar master Chet Atkins and the guitar lessons that familiarized him with the art of classical guitar.
Pharis’ rolling, fluent guitar is his High Mileage strong suit. So, including “Mule,” an instrumental, on the album was a good choice. Otherwise, Pharis’ instrumental skills are mostly used to accompany his vocal performances, albeit he does play impressive guitar solos in the songs.
Pharis writes humorous, self-effacing songs, including the age-related “High Mileage” and a song about an anxiety-prone girlfriend, “Five Alarm Fire.” “I got myself a little girl,” Pharis sings. “She looks like a model and she’s so very fine. But she’s a little jumpy. Like a cat that’s watching a snake. She thinks there’s a five-alarm fire when it’s just a candle on a birthday cake.”
Pharis’ interpretations include Tampa Red’s much-recorded “When Things Go Wrong with You (They Hurt Me Too)” and a lively, countrified rendition of Blind Boy Fuller’s “Step It Up and Go.” His take on Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Up Above My Head I Hear Music in the Air” is a High