Colin James | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Colin James

Colin (James) James (b Munn). Singer, guitarist, songwriter, b Regina 17 Aug 1964. James's early musical exposure was influenced by his parents' preference for folk and traditional music.

James, Colin

Colin (James) James (b Munn). Singer, guitarist, songwriter, b Regina 17 Aug 1964. James's early musical exposure was influenced by his parents' preference for folk and traditional music. He began playing guitar at 8 and by 13, with the addition of mandolin, he was performing throughout Saskatchewan with Regina folk band Sod Hut and the Buffalo Chips. After grade 10, James quit high school at 16 and played with the punk-rock band Nick Danger and the Close Calls. Not long after, he formed the blues-rock band Hoodoo Men and moved to Winnipeg, where he developed an interest in Mississippi Delta blues. By 1984, he had settled in Vancouver, where he worked with the US harmonica player David Burgin. James opened for both John Lee Hooker and George Thorogood before receiving his big break touring with Stevie Ray Vaughan in the US in 1985.

Encouraged by Vaughan, James organized his own band in 1986. His debut album, Colin James, followed in 1988 and included the hits 'Voodoo Thing,' 'Five Long Years,' and 'Why'd You Lie?' Tours followed in Canada and the US, in the latter as an opening act for Steve Winwood and Keith Richards. James received a Juno award in 1989 for most promising male vocalist. His second album, Sudden Stop (1990), included the hits 'Just Came Back' and 'Keep On Lovin' Me Baby,' and won James two Juno awards in 1991 for male vocalist and single of the year ("Just Came Back"). In 1990 James went on tour with ZZ Top in the US, toured in Europe, and also appeared on the television show "Late Night with David Letterman." Canadian sales of Colin James and Sudden Stop exceeded 100,000.

James's emergence paralleled that of the Toronto singer and guitarist Jeff Healey, with whom he shares a love of blues-based music. Chris Dafoe noted (Toronto Star, 6 Jul 1990) on the release of Sudden Stop, 'For someone so young, he's got a remarkable sense of history - his consistently excellent guitar work especially owes a debt to the past - but he brings a brash, coltish energy to music that transforms it into something lighter and more playful.'

James proved the diversity of his style with his next album, Colin James and the Little Big Band. This 1993 jump blues album pre-dated the swing revival craze and led James to appear on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" and to open for the Rolling Stones. He reverted to blues for the album Bad Habits (1995) and won another Juno for male vocalist of the year. The traditional blues album National Steel (1997) was a collaboration with friend Colin Linden and won James his fifth Juno in 1998. The same year he also released his second jump blues album, Colin James and the Little Big Band II (1998), winning a Juno for best producer. In 2000 James presented yet another facet of his style with the experimental rock album Fuse. With the 2003 album Traveler James crossed over into the adult contemporary genre, and in 2005 he released the rock/soul album Limelight.

Most of James's albums feature a combination of cover tunes and co-written originals; many also feature guest musicians such as Mavis Staples, Bonnie Raitt and Lenny Kravitz. James has won 12 Maple Blues awards, and served as host for the event in 2002. He also hosted the 1997 CBC television special "Colin James Presents the Blues Masters."

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