For his 16th studio album, Hearts On Fire, Colin James wanted to try something different. While still working with longtime friend Colin Linden they added a “team” of seasoned musicians that each brought their unique talents to the studio. Whether it was at The House of Blues in Nashville, TN or Magic Ten Studios in Vancouver, BC the team effort has resulted in a record James is very proud of.
“Making this record with my good friend Colin Linden and such a fantastic veteran rhythm section was an amazing experience,” James recalls. “The majority of the recording was done in Nashville during a stretch of warm spring weather so every time I hear the songs I feel like I’m right back in The South. I hope my fans enjoy listening to this record as much as we all enjoyed making it.”
“I loved working with the team that Colin Linden assembled for me in Nashville,” says James. “George Receli is the longtime drummer from Bob Dylan’s road band and Willie Weeks, the legendary bass player, who’s playing with Donny Hathaway I loved and Reese Wynans, the B3 and piano man of countless sessions.”
The first thing one will notice on Hearts On Fire is James’s vocals: warm, expressive, upfront. For someone who’s as well-known as a guitarist, this is something of a change of pace. The songs are very well chosen and highlight James’ seasoned vocals. Mostly composed by James and Tom Wilson (one third of Blackie & The Rodeo Kings & Lee Harvey Osmond front man).
“Tom and I have been writing together for a long time, we seem to know instinctively where the other is headed,” James notes.
James says it wasn’t planned that way but the title track, “Heart’s On Fire” could be Colin’s tribute to the late JJ Cale. “He had just passed away and I guess it was in the back of all our minds,” Colin recalls. The song is sorrowful but memorable. It’s about watching an old flame searching for love when the narrator is still so close at hand. The two guitars of Colin James and Colin Linden mesh beautifully with Sarah Dugas’ harmony vocal.
Linden’s signature slide ignites the rocking “Just A Little Love”. While another ballad follows, the beautiful “Dreams Come And Go”, about a man who feels he married too soon. The acoustic guitars provide the bed over which he sings of the lost love.
Linden’s slide is back for “Roll Me Sunday Morning”, about a fickle lover. Bill Withers’ “Heartbreak Road” speculates on who awaits him as the next relationship. “Honey Bee” is not the Muddy Waters song but a new one by James & Wilson along with long time friend and collaborator Craig Northey (Odds). It is a stone solid rocking blues about rushing home from work to be with the love of his life.
“Paper Airplanes” was written solely by Colin James, it is a very tender ballad about the loss of a loved one whose memory is as fleeting as a paper airplane. “Cry For Love” and “You Were Never Mine” continue the theme of heartbreak and loss.
On covering Rihanna’s hit “Stay”, Colin explains, “We just started playing it in the studio. The track went down so well we decided to keep it”. ‘I Wanna Sing” rounds out the disc as James’ sings with an optimism not present on most of the other tunes.
“My last acoustic album goes back to National Steel in 1998,” Colin reflects. “It seemed a good time for some quieter material, especially as I will be touring more as an acoustic group this time around.”
Colin embarks on a cross-Canada tour this February. All tour dates can be found here.
Colin James is an inductee in the Canadian Music Hall Of Fame. He has won six Juno Awards including “Male Vocalist of the Year” and the “Best Producer” award for his efforts with The Little Big Band. He is the recipient of 17 Maple Blues Awards having most recently been honored in 2013 with “Entertainer of the Year”.