JoAnna James and Chris Koza share the love


JoAnna James CD Release Party / Varsity Theater / April 26, 2007 Text by Mary O'Regan | Photos by Daniel Corrigan

JoAnna James and Chris Koza really like each other. So much, in fact, that they had an unofficial love-off at the release party for James' new EP "Back of my Mind."

"She's one of the most remarkable people I've ever met," Koza gushed as James took the stage to provide harmony for a song. "We're lucky to have her in the Twin Cities."

James one-upped his praise during her introduction for Koza (above) on back-up vocals. "He's one of my favorite songwriters of all time," she said, including him in the ranks of artists like Bob Dylan and Lucinda Williams, who are listed as influences on James' MySpace page.

Overtones of her folk singer forefathers were resonant as James crooned into the microphone, seducing the audience with her smooth alto. She wore brown cowboy boots and a silky flowered sundress that kept getting caught on her guitar strap, flashing a bit of bra. "I'm so sorry," James laughed. "At least you know I wear one."

James kept the mood light-hearted, occasionally slowing down to play an acoustic tune. "Close your eyes, dear," she sang as the audience swayed under twinkling disco balls, "while I try to disappear."


A few songs later, James grabbed her harmonica and switched to an electric guitar. She recalled a recent rehearsal in which she was zapped in the face by a poorly wired microphone. "The shit got shocked out of me." She grinned and motioned to her band. "They gave me a five minute cry time."

Clearly, fame hasn't hardened the young alt-country rocker. Halfway through her set, she made a surprising announcement, something that she couldn't have learned in her hometown of St. Paul: "I used to like the tortured cowboys, but now I only like cowboys in underwear [...] it's all whitey tighties for me from now on."

Text by Mary O'Regan | Photos by Daniel Corrigan