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Leela James 

When: Sat., Aug. 8, 8 p.m. 2009
Price: $30-$32

Besides having the most amazing hair in the business, Leela James is an incredible R&B singer with a knack for channeling soul heroes of the past. Not just the female ones, either. Her 2005 release, A Change Is Gonna Come,capped off with a proper homage to Sam Cooke, and actually made good on its name. Her current release, Let's Do It Again, features all classic material by people like Mick Jagger, Al Green, James Brown, and Jimmie Cox -- some of it extremely well known, the rest a little less obvious. James brings her own personality to the old standards, adding embellishments and contemporizing when necessary. But she always honors rather than one-ups her forbears. Capable of sounding hard, gravelly, sweet, sultry, or wounded, James brings power and emotional heft to all of her songs. She'll take what's been sung a thousand times before and make it sound new. James performs with R&B singer Bilalon Saturday, Aug. 8, at the Grand Regency Ballroom (1290 Sutter St., San Francisco). Anthony David opens. 7 p.m., $30-$32.

— Rachel Swan


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