Acclaimed guitarist Colin James launched his On the Couch with Colin James Guitar Tuesday YouTube series today. The first episode features Colin working out on his Red Supro Res-O-Glass Folkstar guitar. Future episodes will be pre-taped and uploaded to his YouTube channel between 3-4 pm Pacific Time on Tuesdays.
Colin’s most-recent album, Miles to Go, is his ambitious sequel to the critically-acclaimed 2016 CD, Blue Highways, and it continues James’ story with a collection of carefully curated songs handpicked from some of the greatest blues artists.
Known as one of Canada’s best blues musicians, it wasn’t until Blue Highways that James found himself on a blues chart: the album spent 10 weeks at No. 1 on the Roots Music Report’s Blues Chart. It also landed him one of his biggest hits: “Riding in the Moonlight,” a Willie Dixon song that James once covered when busking in the streets and subways of Toronto and Montreal that landed on a Spotify playlist garnering millions of streams.
When James set out to make Blue Highways, an album of blues covers recorded with his touring band, he always intended it to be the first of two installments. Now we have Miles to Go, in which James records nine new covers of his favorite artists (Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Little Willie John, Robert Johnson, etc.) and adds two originals, “I Will Remain” and “40 Light Years.”
“Blues has always been a pass-it-forward kind of thing,” says James. “It’s also surprisingly hard to write. You have to be careful how modern you get in your phrasing. Certain writers can write a song that sounds like it was done 40 years ago, but it’s deceptively hard.”
To be a blues musician is to always have a dialogue with the past. As with much blues music, it’s the performances on the original versions rather than the actual song that drew James to them. That said, what could he possibly bring to them in 2018? “You bring what you can,” he says. “If I feel like I’ve brought enough, then I put it out. I knocked a bunch of songs off this record when I realized that I couldn’t bring anything to them that weren’t there already. All my life I’ve tried to bring vitality to older songs. Hopefully, my dedication to it is what floats it over the mark. That’s a subjective thing; some people will always prefer the original. However, there’s always a group of people coming up to see me after a show who might say, ‘Oh, I never would have heard ‘One More Mile’ by James Cotton—nothing in my life would have pointed me there.’ ”