PUBLISHED IN THE KITCHENER-WATERLOO RECORD ON Thursday, January 14, 1998

 

 

By Nick Krewen

 

 

It only takes a few seconds of conversation to realize that COLIN JAMES is on Cloud Nine. The reason for his euphoria?

"I just finishing recording The Little Big Band II  album!" he triumphantly shouts over the line from Vancouver, "And it is SMOKIN'! I'm so happy I could scream!"

Unlike his multi-platinum 1993 Little Big Band  album, James isn't reuniting with the Texas-based ROOMFUL OF BLUES horns, although some alumni from the first sessions -- tenor saxaphonist GREG PICCOLO and former STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN keyboardist REESE WYNANS -- are back for the sequel.

But James says the reunion he's most excited about involves JOE HARDY, the Memphis-based producer who helmed his 1990 album Sudden Stop.

"Joe is really talented as far as keeping the ball rolling and logistics, but he's also just a great guy," explains the Regina-born James. "He has a way about him to bring out great performances, and he's a guitar guy, so he doesn't shy away from putting some work into the guitar playing.

"I appreciate that because sometimes you get people who just haven't done a lot of it, and don't understand that when I say I can do it better, I probably can. Joe usually says, `Well, I don't care what kind of record it is, I want a guitar solo in every song.'

"As a result, there's more guitar playing on this record, moreso than on the last Little Big Band  record."

James says the Little Big Band II  album should be out in the Spring, and will be followed by a tour.

The multiple Juno winner's newest Little Big Band  project is also a 180-degree turnaround from his last album, the minimalist National Steel, recorded and released last year with his good pal COLIN LINDEN.

Featuring the delta blues classics of such forgotten and obscure blues pioneers as BUKKA WHITE and ROBERT JOHNSON, James says National Steel  was the fulfillment of a promise made long ago.

"It felt good to do something I kind of intended to do for a long time, come hell or high water," says James, 33.

"For five or six years I think I've been really wanting to do delta blues. For one reason or another the opportunity never presented itself."

So James used his own home studio for the project.

"With the home studio I could do it without incurring a whole lot of expense, and still put out good sound quality and play with Colin," James explains.

"We play differently, so we don't get in each other's way. He doesn't play with a flat pick much. I don't play with a thumb pick much. We've been friends since I was 13, so it's kind of a natural partnership. We've both always had a love for the Delta blues."

The album also earned him five nominations -- including Artist Of The Year and Album Of The Year -- for the first annual National Blues Awards, to be presented in Toronto on February 2. However, James seems indifferent to the idea of another new national awards show.

"I think sometimes in Canada we're so encouraged to find the Canadian identity all the time, that it discourages people from following music just for music's sake," he says. "So if you're a kid in Saskatchewan who wants to play blues or jazz, you try and get a Canada Council grant to go to Boston to jazz school, you're kind of laughed out of the room unless you're doing something that's related to Canada. That's dictating to people what they should be doing, and I don't think that's healthy.

"Yes, we do have to have an identity. But whether you're from Fargo, North Dakota or Regina, Saskatchewan, and you want to play the blues, there shouldn't be a reason why you can't. If you have an ability to do it, you should be encouraged...whether you're playing jazz and blues or classical violin."

As for James, after he and his rock band perform at Lulu's this Saturday -- you can bet such classics as "Just Came Back" and "Why'd You Lie" will be in the song list -- and another gig in Bermuda, he's packing his family and his bags and heading to Nashville for three months to write with Joe Hardy, former songwriting partner DARYL BURGESS and possibly JOHN HIATT.

"I ran into John Hiatt this summer, and after all these years trying to get a writing date with him, and it seemed it could just not happen, I played the Edmonton Folk Festival with acoustic with the National Steel  thing. John was on right before me, and it was the first time he heard me sing and play.

"We got along well and went out for dinner, and he said, `If you're down in Nashville in the New Year why don't you come and scratch a tune or two?'"

Colin James seems more than ready to scratch.

 

 

 

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DISCOGRAPHY

1988 -- Colin James

1990 -- Sudden Stop

1993 -- Colin James And The Little Big Band

1995 -- Bad Habits

1995 -- Then Again

1997 -- National Steel

1998 -- Colin James And The Little Big Band II

 

COLLABORATIONS

1990 -- Various Artists, Absolute Blues

1996 -- Various Artists, Oh...What A Feeling!

 

AWARDS

1989 -- Juno, Most Promising Male Vocalist

1991 -- Juno, Single Of The Year -- "Just Came Back"

1991 -- Juno, Male Vocalist Of The Year

1998 -- Juno, Best Blues Album -- National Steel

 

THANKS: Steve Waxman, Jill Morison

 

©1998, 1999 Nick Krewen, Octopus Media Ink

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