Colin James – One More Mile To Go | Album Review

Colin James – One More Mile To Go

True North Records/Stony Plain Records – 2018

12 tracks; 44 minutes

Canadian Colin James has always covered a range of bases, having produced rock, Americana, acoustic and big band albums. He explored his blues roots on 2016’s Blue Highways and One More Mile To Go is the sequel, containing a selection of Colin’s favorite blues artists and a couple of strong originals. The album features Colin’s fine vocals and guitar backed by his regular band: Jesse O’Brien and Simon Kendall on keys, Chris Caddell on rhythm guitar, Steve Pelletier on bass and Geoff Hicks on drums. A three man horn section of Jerry Cook on baritone, Steve Hilliam on tenor and Rod Murray on trombone appears on several tracks and MonkeyJunk’s Steve Marriner provides occasional harp; The Sojourners and Colleen Rennison add backing vocals. The album was recorded in Vancouver, Canada, and produced by Colin and Dave Meszaro.

The album opens with two Muddy Waters covers: ‘Miles To Go’ features Steve’s harp in a full-band production with the horns pushing the song along before Colin’s striking solo; ‘Still A Fool’ is played in a more typical Muddy arrangement with Colin playing some tough guitar over the chugging rhythm. Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup’s ‘Dig Myself A Hole’ has the horns behind Colin’s country blues-influenced slide – an attractive combination. Colin’s ‘I Will Remain’ is a beautifully produced ballad in BB King mode with outstanding guitar work framed by sensitive piano and subtle horns while his second original ‘40 Light Years’ bounces along with a hint of Dire Straits in the guitar work – no surprise that it was issued as a single. ‘Ooh Baby Hold Me’ could only be from Howling Wolf with a typical Hubert Sumlin riff underpinning the tune before Colin drops the pace for a late-night reading of Charles Brown’s ‘Black Night’. There is then an acoustic section with Blind Willie Johnson’s ‘Soul Of A Man’, with excellent slide work, and a very quiet solo take on Blind Lemon Jefferson’s ‘See That My Grave Is Kept Clean/One Kind Favor’ which is beautifully done.

Colin’s version of Little Willie John’s ‘Need Your Love So Bad’ finds pianist Jesse O’Brien twinkling the ivories superbly and the horns adding to the chorus while Colin plays some lovely stuff in a restrained solo. “Tears Came Rolling Down” (a Walter Davis hit in 1952) is also excellent with slide set against a full band backdrop before the album closes with a revisit to the title track, this time in a solo acoustic version.

Colin James remains one of this reviewer’s favorite contemporary artists and these two recent blues albums have been terrific. As Colin is such an eclectic writer and performer one never knows what he will do next, but whatever road he takes it will be worth following. Meanwhile One More Mile To Go comes highly recommended.

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