Colin James review…October 15, 2016…

COLIN JAMES

BLUE HIGHWAYS

TRUE NORTH RECORDS  TND 630

BOOGIE FUNK–WATCH OUT–BIG ROAD BLUES–BAD BAD WHISKEY–GOING DOWN–GYPSY WOMAN–GOIN’ AWAY–LONESOME–HOODOO MAN BLUES–RIDING IN THE MOONLIGHT/MR. LUCK–DON’T MISS YOUR WATER–AIN’T LONG FOR DAY–LAST FAIR DEAL

The Juno Awards are Canada’s version of our Grammys,  and guitarist/vocalist Colin James has won six of ’em.  He is also in the Canadian Music Hall Of Fame, and, after his “Hearts On Fire” tour wrapped up in the spring of 2015, he believed the  time was right to hit the studio and record an album.  And, not just any album–Colin wanted to record some of his favorite blues tracks from some of the greatest legends of the genre’.  The result is “Blue Highways,” thirteen of the songs that influenced his musical career in one way or another.

This is one mighty fine blues road trip!  Colin is a master guitar man, and you can tell from the grooves laid down that everybody involved had a helluva time making this one!  Leading off is Colin’s fiery fretwork on the chooglin’ Freddie King instrumental, “Boogie Funk.”  The groove is augmented by harp from Monkeyjunk frontman Steve Marriner on harp, and organ from Simon Kendall.  They bring back that deep Texas blues groove a bit later with a scintillating take on a song King helped make famous, Don Nix’s “Going Down.”   Jesse O’Brien’s piano adds to the ferocious heat of this one, too.  Peter Chatman’s “Lonesome” is turned into a swingin’, jump-blues affair that we only wish could’ve been longer, and Peter Green’s “Watch Out” gets a jazzy treatment with organ again from Simon Kendall.  Colin lets his slide guitar wail on Tommy Johnson’s “Big Road Blues,” and again on a rumblin’ read of Jimmy Rogers’ “Goin’ Away.”

We had two favorites, too.  You can feel the ghost of Muddy down in the Delta as Colin’s guitar and Steve’s harp conjure up that ol’ “Gypsy Woman,” knowin’ “there’ll be trouble after a while!”  And, by now, probably everyone is familiar with the story of Buddy Guy on Junior Wells’ “Hoodoo Man Blues.”  Legend has it that Buddy’s amp blew just before that Delmark session, and he improvised by plugging his guitar into a Leslie organ speaker, giving it that now-iconic “distorted” sound.  Well, Colin re-creates that sound on this version, and it most righteously rocks!

Colin James and this fantastic backing crew have created an album not only of his favorites, but songs that shaped him as a musician, and served him throughout his career.  Another of those sets that we wish had been more extensive, blues fans should embrace and revel in this trip down “Blue Highways!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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