March 28, 2019 - 7:30PM
With his 19th album, Miles to Go (out Sept. 21, on Stony
Plain Records in the USA and True North Records ROW), Colin
James is getting back to the blues. And he's also getting
back to the road, announcing a 24-date, 23-city Canadian
tour. See below for the complete schedule.
Miles to Go, Colin James' ambitious sequel to the
critically acclaimed Blue Highways, continues James' story
with a collection of carefully curated songs handpicked
from some of the greatest blues artists.
In the months leading up to the recording, as James was
reflecting on songs for the album he decided to reacquaint
himself with a beautiful red Gibson ES-335. It was just
like the guitar he played as a teenager but regretfully had
to sell for rent money.
While James reconnected with this guitar, Miles to Go
seemed to just flow onto the studio floor.
This album blends songs old and new, some of them
completely reimagined and some almost perfect homages. But
all are unified by a theme of undying love for the blues
and the highest respect for the creators that led the
Known as one of Canada's best blues musicians, it wasn't
until 2016's Blue Highways that James found himself on a
blues chart: the album spent 10 weeks at No. 1 on the Roots
Music Report's Blues Chart. It also landed him one of his
biggest hits: "Riding in the Moonlight". A Willie Dixon
song that James once covered when busking in the streets
and subways of Toronto and Montreal that landed on a
Spotify playlist garnering millions of streams.
When James set out to make Blue Highways, an album of blues
covers recorded with his touring band, he always intended
it to be the first of two installments. Now we have Miles
to Go, in which James records nine new covers of his
favourite artists (Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Blind Willie
Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Little Willie John, Robert
Johnson, etc.) and adds two originals, "I Will Remain" and
"40 Light Years." "Blues has always been a pass-it-forward
kind of thing," says James. "It's also surprisingly hard to
write. You have to be careful how modern you get in your
phrasing. Certain writers can write a song that sounds like
it was done 40 years ago, but it's deceptively hard."
To be a blues musician is to always have a dialogue with
the past. As with much blues music, it's the performances
on the original versions rather than the actual song that
drew James to them. That said, what could he possibly bring
to them in 2018? "You bring what you can," he says. "If I
feel like I've brought enough, then I put it out. I knocked
a bunch of songs off this record when I realized that I
can't bring anything to them that isn't there already. All
my life I've tried to bring vitality to older songs.
Hopefully my dedication to it is what floats it over the
mark. That's a subjective thing; some people will always
prefer the original. However, there's always a group of
people coming up to see me after a show who might say, "Oh,
I never would have heard 'One More Mile' by James Cotton-
nothing in my life would have pointed me there."
So much of Colin James's career has pointed him to this
moment: joyfully tangled up in the blues, which, as he
notes, "is the only genre where you can maintain a young
profile at the age of 53."