After recording the highly regarded Blue Highways, Colin James continued his renewed interest in blues to the point of going back to his first guitar, a Gibson ES-335, the original of which he had to sell for rent money. According to the press release, playing this guitar, the guitar of choice for many blues players, led to the song selection here. And a very interesting set list it is, including two originals. Blue Highways was recorded with his touring band mostly live off the floor, this one has some of the same players but more of them plus a full horn section. James Cotton’s “One More Mile” gets a loving, full band, funky workout. It’s difficult to overestimate Cotton’s influence in contemporary blues and this version is a wonderful reminder, Steve Marriner’s harp & Colin’s vocal deserving special mention. Muddy’s “Still A Fool” gets a thoroughly modern reworking for the full band – Marriner is again on harp and with an amazing vocal from Colin that succeeds without imitating the master. Arthur Crudup’s anti-war song “Dig Myself A Hole” was originally recorded with a barely electric trio, this version with the full horns leading the way will sit you straight up in your chair. Colin solos on slide throughout. “I Will Remain” is the first of the two originals, a beautiful slow blues that will remind you of both BB and Albert, a keeper for sure. The first single, “40 Light Years”, is the other original, a JJ Cale-inspired toe-tapper with a lovely horn chart and masterful harp from Marriner. There’s also a lyric video at YouTube. “Black Night” was a hit for Lowell Fulson and many others and it gets a solid workout here, with a soulful vocal from Colin and a guitar part to match. Blind Willie Johnson’s “Soul Of A Man” has seen several great versions recently and this stripped-down acoustic one, with the Sojourners and a searing electric slide solo, joins their ranks. Back to electric and slightly faster is Little Willie John’s “I Need Your Love So Bad” to add a little R&B to the mix. The St. Louis bluesman Henry Townsend recorded “Tears Came Rolling Down” in 1948, with Walter Davis on piano. I think he would have been most impressed with this glorious electric version with the full band – Colin is on slide, Marriner on harp and those wonderful horns. The album closes with a solo acoustic version of “One More Mile”, which is much closer to the Muddy original. The band this time out is: drums & percussion, Geoff Hicks; bass, Steve Pelletier; piano & wurlitzer, Jesse O’Brien; hammond organ, Simon Kendall and rhythm guitar, Chris Caddell with Chris Gestrin guesting on piano for “Black Night”. If Blue Highways was a recording by a touring band at the top of its game, Miles To Go is a studio triumph of planning and preparation. Colin James has recorded many albums of blues-rock and rock but here, at 53, he shows he remains true to the blues. The closest he gets to us is a free show at Blue Mountain in Collingwood on September 8th, just before the official release date of September 21. For more tour dates go to www.colinjames.com.

September 2018 - catl
Top Blues - September 2018