Colin James – Blue Highways | Album Review

Colin James – Blue Highways

True North Records

13 songs time-44:46

Our great neighbor to the north, Canada, never seems to run out of their supply of talented and authentic sounding bluesmen. I give you my latest find, Colin James. I know he has been around a while, I knew the name vaguely, but this is my initial introduction to him. It was well worth the wait. Colin and his band mates imbue this recording of covers by blues icons with a freshness and enthusiasm that is only superseded by their grasp of the blues. In the liner notes he states that this is a collection of tunes by artists that have influenced his taste in blues. Colin’s guitar skills are very evident, as well as having a voice well suited to the blues. His musicians are with him at every turn.

Freddie King’s “Boogie Shuffle” is the kind of song that would be used to kick off a live show. That is appropriate here, as everything was recorded live in the studio. The band injects energy in this number. Fleetwood Mac’s “Watch Out” is killer and you can hear some of Peter Green’s inflections in Colin’s vocal delivery. Tommy Johnson’s “Big Road Blues” is done up ala Canned Heat replete with some way wicked slide guitar. Slide appears again on “Bad Bad Whiskey”. Coleen Rennison provides background vocals here and elsewhere.

A song associated with Freddy King and later The Jeff Beck Group, “Going Down”, stands proudly up against both versions. Muddy Water’s “Gypsy Woman” is taken at a slow and appropriately loose pace. The presentation of “Goin’ Away” takes the listener way down south with down home sounding slide guitar. “Lonesome” shuffles along quite nicely thank you and Colin’s guitar is spot on. Colin doesn’t have as commanding a voice as Jr. Wells nor the swagger and attitude in his voice, but never-the-less he delivers a decent take on Jr.’s “Hoodoo Man Blues”.

Colin melds Howlin’ Wolf and Jimmy Reed in “Riding In The Moonlight/Mr. Luck” as his acoustic guitar battles it out with Steve Marriner’s lively harmonica work. A horn section appears in the R&B tinged “Don’t Miss Your Water”. Mournful slide guitar on Blind Willie McTell’s “Ain’t Long For Day” is akin to a wayward wind beckoning the listener down south. Things get capped off with an enthusiastic reading of Robert Johnson’s “Last Fair Deal”.

Canada just keeps giving the world great blues. Some how the blues strike a chord with many Canadian musicians and they absorb the nuances of it in way that is uncanny. If it’s the water, the weather there or whatever, I just hope that the magic doesn’t stop.

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