Showcasing tunes from his latest CD Hearts on Fire, singer/songwriter Colin James performs Wednesday at the Memorial Centre.
Tickets are available at the Black Knight Inn Ticket Centre by visiting www.blackknightinn.ca or calling 403-755-6626.
James, meanwhile, is thoroughly enjoying this particular tour, and looking forward to showcasing a decidedly mellower side to his fans in the acoustic-styled show. “It keeps me on my toes,” he laughs, describing performing without a full band backing him up. “I’ve been playing electric guitar all of my life – you put one in my hands – it’s kind of what I’ve always done.
But in my earlier years, when I was about 10 until I was about 16, I played a lot of folk music,” he explains. “So I played a lot of acoustic music until I was 16. (With this tour), I’m going back to something I used to do and something I love. You can talk a little more between the songs about the songs, too, and give people a little bit more context.”
He explains Hearts on Fire was a long time coming. “I had wanted a more subdued record for awhile, but I just couldn’t seem to get to it. The timing was never right,” he said. “I had to wait a bit.
“I wanted to make something that you could kind of put on and leave on, something with more of a relaxed vibe.”
Hearts of Fire is indeed packed with all kinds of standout sonic gems, from the slowed down, smoky, blues-infused opener and title track and the energetic snap of Just a Little Love to the infectious lilt of Heartbreak Road.
Honey Bee follows an edgy rock-solid groove, where songs like the gentle Paper Airplanes show James’ more reflective side as does You Were Never Mine. I Wanna Sing, a flat-out rollicking blues number is wonderfully reminiscent of some of his earlier offerings.
“Making this record with my good friend Colin Linden with such a fantastic veteran rhythm section was an amazing experience,” says James, adding he and Linden have known each other since they were teens. “We have a connection. This is also our fourth record I think, so we put together this beautiful band, so it was a lot of fun.
“I’ve known him since I was 13 and he was 16, and he knows every twist and turn I’ve had along the way and so do I about him,” he laughs. “You can’t beat working with someone who really knows you.
“The majority of the recording was also done in Nashville during a stretch of warm spring weather so every time I hear the songs I feel like I’m right back in the south. I hope my fans enjoy listening to this record as much as we all enjoyed making it.”
When James first hit the scene a quarter century ago, he became an instant rock guitar hero, mentored by Stevie Ray Vaughan. Since then, he has topped the charts as a pop vocalist, recorded acclaimed blues discs and led the swing revival with his Little Big Band, which he both fronted and produced.
A passion for music was sparked early on. By the time he was 13, he was making something of a name for himself as a gifted mandolin player as well. “I joined this band at the time, and there were autoharps and banjos and acoustic guitars and bongos – you name it. We’d play barn dances and gigs around Saskatchewan.”
He ventured into punk briefly in his mid-teens, but promptly knew it wasn’t for him. He even signed on with a reggae band briefly. Such a whirlwind of experiences no doubt fueled his remarkable versatility today.
James left home at 16 and moved to Winnipeg after it became obvious there was no other path for him to take. That’s also when he got started with his first blues band which was The Hoodoo Men. That was in the early 1980s. Just a few years later, in 1988, his self-titled debut was released and an enormously successful career was born.
It won him his first Juno and an opening spot on tour with Keith Richards. His second album, Sudden Stop, featured his hit Just Came Back which reached number three on the U.S. radio charts and earned him the Juno Award for ‘Single of the Year.’
James was next credited with launching the swing revival, thanks to his popular Little Big Band, which has released four albums to date.
“I love music, and I’ve loved it from the start,” he said. “It’s everything to me and it’s given back to me so much.”