Miles To Go
True North Records
One of the best Canadian interpreters of traditional blues is Colin James. On his last album 2016’s “Blue Highway” James paid tribute to some of his influences. That album spent ten weeks at No. 1 on the Roots Music Report’s Blues Chart. This is James’ sequel to that collection.
Colin James Munn was initially inspired by listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan. Once after opening for SRV it was suggested to him that he drop his last name. He recorded his first album in 1988 but is most well known for his jump blues band. Beginning in 1993 Colin James and The Little Big Band released four albums which continue to be in demand as two were recently re-issued. James is a star in Canada as he has released over forty singles. James’ is also a twenty time Maple Blues Award Winner including being named “Entertainer of The Year”.
This is James’ nineteenth album overall. Once again the album is co-produced by James and Dave Meszaros utilizing many of the same personnel from their last recording. The band includes James, guitar and vocals; Jesse O’Brien, piano and Wurlitzer; Simon Kendall, B-3; Steve Pelletier, bass; Geoff Hicks, drums and percussion; Steve Marriner, harmonica; and the horn section of Steve Hilliam, tenor sax; Jerry Cook, baritone sax; and Rod Murray, trombone. Background vocalists include The Sojourners and Colleen Rennison.
“Blues has always been a pass-it-forward kind of thing…all my life I’ve tried to bring vitality to older songs. Hopefully, my dedication to it is what floats it over the mark.” The first two tracks are from Muddy Waters. Marriner’s harp and the horns open “One More Mile” first recorded by Waters in 1963; it wasn’t released in the US until ten years later. James displays great vocal clarity before taking his solo. “Still A Fool” was a Chess Records single for Waters in 1951, and James rocks out with a more extended guitar solo.
“Ooh Baby, Hold Me” from Howlin Wolf first appeared on Wolf’s 1965 Chess Records album “Poor Boy”. James plays an acoustic on “See That My Grave is Kept Clean” from Blind Lemon Jefferson, the song dates back to 1928. “Soul Of A Man” is a gospel blues from Blind Willie Johnson, first recorded in 1930, and James plays slide.
“I Need Your Love So Bad”, featuring O’Brien on piano, was written by John Mertis Jr. and recorded by his younger brother Little Willie John on King Records in 1955. James switches to slide again on “Dig Myself A Hole”, the B-side of a 1962 single for Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup.
“Tears Came Rolling Down” was recorded by singer/pianist Walter Davis in 1950 but should be credited to his guitarist Henry Townsend. “Black Night” was written by Jesse Mae Robinson and popularized in 1951 when it was recorded by Charles Brown; James’ version is beautifully sung and played.
James has also included two originals, the poignant “I Will Remain” featuring the background singers; and “40 Light Years” co-written with Tom Wilson and keyboardist O’Brien. The album closes with an acoustic version of “One More Mile”.
James is a wonderful vocalist and entertainer who continues to keep traditional blues alive. James adds blues “is the only genre where you can maintain a young profile at the age of 53”. The music keeps us all young. Thank you, Colin James.
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