Bluesman Colin James excited to be back on the road with three N.B. dates

·4 min read
Colin James spent much of the pandemic recording a new album called Open Road. He'll finally get back on the road in Canada to promote it, kicking off on Canada Day in Moncton. (Stony Plain Records - image credit)
Colin James spent much of the pandemic recording a new album called Open Road. He'll finally get back on the road in Canada to promote it, kicking off on Canada Day in Moncton. (Stony Plain Records - image credit)

Bluesman Colin James admits the title of his latest album is a bit of an irony, given the conditions under which it was made.

"Yeah, I know, it's wishful thinking. I mean, it's so funny," said James, getting ready to tour to promote the record, including three shows in New Brunswick in early July.

Open Road was recorded while James was stuck at home in Vancouver, unable to be on the road with his band while the COVID-19 pandemic raged.

The multiple-Juno and Maple Blues Award winner was on tour back in March of 2020 when the lockdown came, playing for audiences in California.

"We were playing Yoshi's in Oakland, actually, the night it all hit the fan," James recalled in a phone interview.

"We were staying in Sacramento the night before and I remember hearing about something that we might have to go home. We got to Yoshi's, and Oakland was like —  there's tumbleweeds rolling across the street and stuff — and there was some big cruise ship that wasn't allowed to dock because there was a COVID outbreak on the ship."

That was where it ended.

"You know, we got in our van and drove home to Vancouver."

James had already started work on the record and knew he'd need at least two more studio sessions to complete enough tracks.

But making a record during a pandemic was no easy task, especially when travel was restricted.

Colin James/
Colin James/

"In some cases, I couldn't fly people in from Toronto who were in my band, so I had to use people who I knew from here, from Vancouver," James said.

"And then my producer lived in England, so we had to get together at 11 in the morning my time … because he had a day job in the music business as a manager. So at night we'd get together. So we'd have two hours a day maybe to put work in on Zoom together on the record."

It also meant James missed out on the opportunity to attend the final mixing sessions at the famed Abbey Road Studios in London.

"I sat [with] a laptop on a speaker cabinet looking at my friend Dave working on the record."

"It was a weird way to record," James said.

The album came out in November of last year, and James had a tour booked to coincide with the release.

But a surge in COVID cases put an end to those plans, and dates had to be postponed and rescheduled — twice.

"It's been very topsy-turvy and not to mention, you know, you got people who have done this all their lives who all of a sudden couldn't work. So a real, real sobering two years, I think," he said.

James felt the added pressure of bandmates who had to find other ways to make ends meet.

"I had some guys that had to take some jobs that they didn't want to take and drive truck and do all kinds of things. So, yeah, it was definitely tough, but we made it through, and forward we go."

The band finally got back on the road this spring, doing 19 dates as the opening act for blues great Buddy Guy, playing venues across the U.S., including the Ryman in Nashville, home of the Grand Ole Opry, and the Moody Theater, where the TV show Austin City Limits is recorded.

James said it was quite a way to dive back into live performance.

"Yeah, it was the first show in Beverly Hills, you know, a place I hadn't played in years. And I was absolutely nervous and anxious and the band hadn't played in a while. So I was really nervous and we got a really nice crowd, they stood up at the end of our show and I thought, 'OK, I think we're going to be OK'."

"You know, there's just nothing like having a string of gigs in a row. You need three to get the bugs out, and then you're off and running."

He'll kick off his spring tour with three dates in New Brunswick: Riverfront Park in Moncton on Canada Day, a free show as part of the celebrations, the Fredericton Playhouse on July 5 and the Imperial Theatre in Saint John on July 6.

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