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Kevin James doesn’t have an alarm clock.

“I haven’t had a real job since I was 19 years old. I don’t have a disciplined lifestyle.” Which might explain why, although he has played D.C.’s Irish pubs for 20 years, James has just gotten around to releasing his debut, Testing Murphy’s Law.

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An inveterate procrastinator, James knew he needed someone organized at the helm, so he recruited local virtuoso Pete Kennedy to produce. “It was the most pleasant experience. Pete took care of everything, and within two weeks he had an exact schedule,” he says. “I can’t wait to go into the studio and do it again.” Of course, James has to come up with more material first, and that’s unlikely to happen for a while. “I can find a million reasons why not to sit down and write, but when I do it, I really enjoy it,” he insists. “It’s like doing a jigsaw puzzle, and there’s a lot of work to do to get the pieces to fit.”

In the meantime, James will accept the praise he’s receiving for Testing, though he’s quick to share the credit. “Pete said, in his wisdom, ‘If it’s a hassle, it’s going to show. It’ll come through that this was not a labor of love.’” And the best way to get that comfortable sound, James figured, was to hire his family. “I sat back and said, ‘Who would ideally want to play on this?’” He knew he could count on his wife, Lena, and his brother-in-law, Sanford Markley, who are both in the band Brandywine. And James could rely on his kid brother, Tim, who sings with him on weekends. He also recruited from his extended family of Washington musicians: Brandywine’s Brian Goddard, Eddie “From Ohio” Hartness, Mary Ann Redmond drummer Andy Hamburger, and Jon Carroll of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s band. “These guys came in with the attitude, like, ‘Let’s have fun.’ [They all] came in with their own ideas. They all became part of the project.” That his friends happen to be professionals who nail their parts in the first two takes just made it that much easier, James says, but “I get all the pats on the back.” It just goes to show, sometimes absolutely nothing goes wrong.—Tina Plottel