Colin James review…September 17, 2018….

COLIN JAMES

MILES TO GO

STONY PLAIN RECORDS/TRUE NORTH RECORDS  TND 701

ONE MORE MILE–STILL A FOOL–DIG MYSELF A HOLE–I WILL REMAIN–40 LIGHT YEARS–OOH BABY HOLD ME–BLACK NIGHT–SOUL OF A MAN–SEE THAT MY GRAVE IS KEPT CLEAN–I NEED YOUR LOVE SO BAD–TEARS CAME ROLLING DOWN–ONE MORE MILE (ACOUSTIC)

When Canadian bluesman Colin James recorded “Blue Highways” in 2016, he always intended for it to be in two parts.  Thus, its highly-anticipated follow-up is now upon us.  Nine covers and two very sweet originals comprise “Miles To Go,” and it is every bit as strong as its predecessor.  Using a red Gibson Es-335, (just like the one he had to sell as a teen to pay his rent!), the songs virtually flowed out of him.

Many of the cover songs herein are familiar to fans.  With Colin James, tho, he wanted  each one to be different in some way from the original versions to make them unique and entertaining to everyone.  Check out his take on Muddy’s “Still A Fool,” and those laconic “two trains runnin.”  Colin’s guitar, as the song climaxes, takes on a Muddy-meets-the-Voodoo-Chile vibe, with Steve Marriner on the mournful harp.  He updates Big Boy Crudup’s “Dig Myself A Hole” from its Cold War origins with lyrics for today’s audiences, with a cool horn section over his wailin’ slide work.

It’s a tough task, but Colin makes his originals sound vintage, too.  He’s into a potential lover, but she’s just not reciprocating–she’s  “40 Light Years Away, livin’ in a one-horse town.”  And, the minor-key classic “I Will Remain” has him professing to a loved one that he will “help you carry on, when all seems lost.”  Colin’s guitar work echoes B. B. King, and serves as one of our favorites.

We had two other favorites, too.  With Jesse O’Brien’s churchified piano over Colin’s slow-blues groove, this version of Little Willie John’s “Need Your Love So Bad” ranks as one of the best covers ever of this classic.  (Yeah, it’s as good as the ABB’s, too!)  The set closes with our other favorite.  Now, Colin began this album with a horn-and-harp-fueled romp of Muddy’s (by way of Cotton’s) “One More Mile,” and that’s another damn good cut, but he outdoes himself on the closing cut, a Delta-fied acoustic read of this same song, made mo’ better by the appearance of the mighty Sojourners gospel group on backing vocals!

Colin James accomplished what he set out to do with “Miles To Go,” by creating originals with the wisdom of a bluesman’s soul, and putting his own stamp on some of the most endearing songs in all of blues.  Hey Colin–why not shoot for the Hat Trick?  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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