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Colin James announces “Chasing the Sun”

To a recording artist, having a bunch of big-name guests on your album can be a double-edged sword: It’ll get you some attention, sure, but there’s always the danger you’ll find yourself pushed out of the limelight—a supporting player in your own production. Fortunately, no one elbows Colin James into the wings. With nearly four decades in the business—and an armload of sales records and peer accolades to show for it—the Vancouver blues-rocker has thrown open the door to welcome a house party’s worth of friends and mentors on his 21st and latest, Chasing the Sun, which streets on August 23rd. Appearances by the legendary likes of Charlie Musselwhite, Lucinda Williams, Darryl Jones and Charley Drayton energize an album that cooks with the intensity of a thousand spotless reputations. But the formula remains 100-proof James throughout—a distillation of the singular and passionate vision that’s enshrined him in the hearts of millions of record buyers worldwide as a musician’s musician.

Take spotlight track “Devilment,” a title-appropriate blast of fire-and-brimstone blues that revels in some red-hot harmonica from the iconic Musselwhite. You can hear every breath of the authenticity Musselwhite has lived and exhaled for more than half a century as both a Grammy-nominated harpist in his own right and a revered sideman to heavyweights like Bonnie Raitt and the Blind Boys of Alabama. Yet his own contribution never overpowers James’ stinging guitar and barroom-approved vocal as the latter sings the praises of a woman who’s not only “lovely” and fine” but has “the devilment on [her] mind.”

Pumping the ardor even further into the stratosphere are bassist Jones and drummer Drayton, whose miles-long pedigree (both together and apart) includes work with everyone from the Rolling Stones, Miles Davis and Neil Young to Sting, Paul Simon and Johnny Cash. And that isn’t even factoring in the extra instrumental assist by co-producer Colin Linden, who played guitars, bass and dobro on the album—and just happens to have co-written “Devilment” in the first place. (Previous versions of the song appeared on separate 2009 albums by Linden and its co-author, Toronto bluesman Paul Reddick.)

To Linden, who’s produced six albums with James since they started collaborating back in 1997, the new album is definitely a case of sweetening, not diluting, his pal’s boundless talents. “Colin is still so engaged with his own artistic development,” he marvels. “And it just got better every time we dug in deeper, which is not always the way it is. There are some places on the record where I can’t tell if it’s me or him playing guitar, even though we play differently. There is this blending of styles indicative of the vibe of serving the music.”

That means serving it wherever it chooses to go. For the spiritual flip side of “Devilment,” cop a listen to album opener “Protection,” a sinuously driving cover of Williams’ 2014 plea for salvation from life’s dark forces. James’ rendition soars on the perfect sync between his own singing and an unmistakable vocal assist from the Americana icon herself.

“Lucinda is such a revered songwriter, such a legend,” James raves. “But she’s so nice. And hearing our voices together on tape was such a pleasure.” And with gospel greats Ann and Regina McCrary chiming in too, who up in heaven could deny their tenderest mercies?

Captured for posterity at Nashville’s Pinhead Recorders—a 1,000-square-foot, “purpose-built,” standalone home studio in Linden’s backyard—Chasing the Sun is a cannily assembled set of songs pulled in from all over the place. Scorching originals like “Star Studded Sky” and “This Song Kills Hate” represent career-best collaborations between James and a host of Canadian compadres, including Tom Wilson of Junkhouse and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings and Colin and John-Angus MacDonald of rock maulers The Trews. Adding flavor are four meticulously chosen covers from the songbooks of giants like John Hammond and Paul Butterfield. The track list runs to 11 numbers in total—nine on the album proper, and another two offered as downloads (including “Come to Find Out,” another team-up with Musselwhite).

Chasing the Sun is the latest landmark in a career that’s been hitting high after high since 1988, when James’ self-titled debut became the fastest-selling album in Canadian history and won him his first JUNO Award. (It helps when one of your earliest champions enjoys a profile like Stevie Ray Vaughan’s.) Since then, James has collected multiple gold and platinum awards, scored a #3 radio hit in the United States (“Just Came Back”) and shared musical airspace with a who’s who of greats, including Keith Richards, Albert Collins, Albert King, ZZ Top, the Chieftains, Carlos Santana and Buddy Guy. In the process, he’s received eight JUNOs and 31 Maple Blues Awards and been inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame. Last year, he scored his first nod fromthe Memphis-based Blues Foundation, which nominated him in the Best Blues Rock Album category for his 2021 collection, Open Road.

So don’t pigeonhole him as an early bloomer: To James, the road has only gotten easier and more rewarding over time. “Maybe people don’t buy into a blues guy in his early ‘20s,” he laughs. “When you’re knocking at the door at age 60, people are like ‘Oh yeah, come on in.’”

Yes, please do. And bring your friends with you.

TRACK LISTING

1 Protection (Featuring Lucinda Williams) 4:53
2 I’m Still Alive 5:18
3 Devilment (Featuring Charlie Musselwhite) 3:16
4 Crystal Ball 3:37
5 How It Feels To Be Loved 6:06
6 Star Studded Sky 4:13
7 Too Far Gone 3:51
8 In My Own Dream 4:53
9 This Song Kills Hate 4:24
10 Come To Find Out (Featuring Charlie Musselwhite) 5:02
11 Open Your Mind 4:43

One thought on “Colin James announces “Chasing the Sun”

  • This guy! So much talent, and so diverse! I find it incredible just how much of an unknown Colin is here in the States, a sad testimony to the way the music industry fails to promote talent here. I recall my first exposure (LBB II in 1998) then discovery of his diversity as demonstrated in releases such as Bad Habits and National Steel. And being blown away the first time seeing him live at a small club in 2000 in Buffalo. I’m elated with the impending release of another new record, which just came to my attention this morning when I enjoyed a HiRes version of Devilment on Qobuz! Please consider supporting this release with a swing through the desert Southwest!

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