Colin James performs on Wednesday at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre to promote his soulful new release

Colin James performs on Wednesday at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre to promote his soulful new release

Good for what ails the troubled heart

“Music is like a medicine,” says six-time Juno Award-winning singer Colin James, who performs on Wednesday at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre. If so, then his torchy Hearts on Fire album could prove a soothing elixir for what ails the troubled heart.

“Music is like a medicine,” says six-time Juno Award-winning singer Colin James, who performs on Wednesday at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre.

If so, then his torchy Hearts on Fire album could prove a soothing elixir for what ails the troubled heart.

Words like “love,” “heart” and “heartbreak” turn up with frequency on his soulful new release — so much so that James admitted he has to watch his set list at concerts, lest fans start wondering about his personal life. (For the record, he been married for 23 years to the same woman. “We’ve known each other for 25,” said the Vancouver-based performer, with a chuckle. “I just happen to like lonely, sad sounding music. …)

Although he also enjoys “stuff that rocks,” James is closely drawn to “yearning, plaintive” melodies — like those that infuse many bluesy tunes on Hearts on Fire, his 16th album. Some critics are hailing it as one of the finest in his 27-year career, and the Regina native finds that a very nice thing to hear.

“I’m glad that people are enjoying it,” said James, because the recording is long overdue.

He had wanted to make a “softer,” more relaxed sounding CD when he got signed to EMI Records just before the label merged with Universal Music three years ago. “Because I was known as a rocker and this was a new label, they wanted me to put out another rock and blues record” — which is what he did with his 2012 release. Fifteen was the third blues-rock album James put out in a row, and he was itching to do something different this time.

“You have to follow your instincts,” he said, so Hearts on Fire became the reflective album he’d been wanting to make in 2012. He believes the long delay and the extra planning time paid off with a strong lineup of songs.

With his friend and producer Colin Linden, James created a sonically cohesive CD that fans can listen to from start to finish, without the mood shifting drastically in the middle. “I didn’t want anyone to have to run across the room when the three rock songs came on. I wanted to be able to put (the album) on and leave it on.”

Hearts on Fire was recorded in Nashville, so has a sparse, country vibe. There’s also something subterranean about the sound that brings New Orleans to mind. James believes it’s the influence of some musicians who perform on the album, including drummer Willie Weeks, who hails from the Big Easy and has played with Eric Clapton, Chaka Khan and Bob Dylan.

“It has a lot of economy, space,” said James of the CD, crediting Linden with its spontaneous, understated feel. Linden (of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings) “likes to leave a lot of stuff like it is,” added the 50-year-old singer/guitarist. This is particularly felt on the title track, which was recorded exactly as it was played in the studio.

But even James’s cover of Rihanna’s torch song Stay is so spare and unorchestrated that the familiar tune is hard to place at first. He said he recorded Stay because “people didn’t expect it of me.” He began doing his own acoustic version of the song at concerts because he loved the beautiful lyrics and gorgeous, subtle chord changes.

That tune will lend itself to James’s acoustic concert in Red Deer. He will perform here as a duo with his friend and fellow guitarist Chris Caddell.

The stripped-down experience will give James’s fans another vantage point from which to appreciate his music. Although some electric guitars will be used, Linden admitted the listeners’ attention will be more focused on song lyrics. As a result, even some of his hits — Five Long Years, Voodoo Thing, Why’d You Lie, Just Came Back and Breakin’ Up the House — will sound different and fresher.

“There will be more chance for me to talk about the songs and banter with the audience. It’ll be much more intimate,” said James.

“I love it. I really enjoy these shows.”

Since opening for the legendary Stevie Ray Vaughan in the late 1980s, James has performed around the continent, sharing stages with Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray, Luther Allison, Keith Richards, Lenny Kravitz, ZZ Top, Mavis Staples, John Hammond Jr., the Chieftains, Carlos Santana, Little Feat, Buddy Guy and many others.

He was inducted in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2013. Besides his Junos, he has won 17 Maple Blues Awards over the years.

Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. concert are $53.42 from the Black Knight Ticket Centre.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
Gov’t of Alberta identifies estimated 300 new COVID-19 cases Sunday

Online COVID-19 dashboard unavailable as upgrades being completed

The Central Alberta Freestyle Ski Club is hoping to win $50,000 through the Mackenzie Investments Top Peak contest. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta ski club trying to win $50K in online contest

A central Alberta ski club has entered a contest where it can… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Red Deer dips below 300 active COVID-19 cases

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Red Deer continued to drop… Continue reading

Ben King scores for the Red Deer Rebels during the third period of a Western Hockey League game against the Calgary Hitmen at the Westerner Park Centrium Saturday. (Photo by Rob Wallator/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels complete comeback to pick up first win of season

Rebels 3 Hitmen 2 (OT) The Red Deer Rebels were able to… Continue reading

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan takes part in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa on December 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservatives to call top Sajjan, Trudeau aides to testify on Vance allegations

OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives plan to summon two senior Liberal aides… Continue reading

Elvira D'Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Several provinces were preparing to loosen COVID-19 restrictions on Sunday, as Canada’s… Continue reading

Mount Pearl Senior High in Mount Pearl, N.L., remains closed on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The provincial health authority says there were 185 cases at 22 schools, including 145 infections among staff and students of one high school in Mount Pearl that was an early epicentre of the outbreak. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
In Newfoundland and Labrador, three ingredients made for explosive COVID-19 outbreak

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — With her classes, three part-time jobs and a… Continue reading

A passenger places a tag on luggage at the departure terminal at Toronto Pearson Airport, in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, May 24, 2019. The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many recent immigrants to leave Canada and return to their countries of origin, where they have more social and familial connections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
COVID-19 pandemic prompts recent newcomers to leave Canada for their home countries

OTTAWA — The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic… Continue reading

Rail cars wait for pickup in Winnipeg, Sunday, March 23, 2014. The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian oil and gas on trains destined for the United States — a country experts fear is ill-equipped for the potential consequences. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
As debate rages over cross-border pipelines, U.S. analysts brace for more oil by rail

WASHINGTON — The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian… Continue reading

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

VICTORIA — Legal experts and a mother whose ex-partner was convicted of… Continue reading

Radio and television personality Dick Smyth is shown in an undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
Dick Smyth, Canadian maestro of news radio commentary, dies at 86

TORONTO — Radio and television personality Dick Smyth, whose booming commentary filled… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Funeral for Walter Gretzky to be held Saturday in home town of Brantford, Ont.

The funeral for hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter will take place… Continue reading

Most Read