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James returns to pop/rock with Fuse

WHO: Colin James with special guests Sharkskin WHERE: Whistler Conference Centre WHEN: Saturday, January 20 COST: $32.

WHO: Colin James with special guests Sharkskin

WHERE: Whistler Conference Centre

WHEN: Saturday, January 20

COST: $32.50 advance; $35 at the door

In an ideal world, music would be above the influence of fads or fashion and artists would be driven by creativity alone, rather than a need to pay the rent. However, even accomplished musicians such as Canadian guitarist and singer Colin James have had to adapt their style in response to changing consumer tastes. Fortunately for James, he seems to have hit the nail on the head by anticipating music trends.

"Back in the early ’90s blues rock underwent a bit of demise when grunge and alternative music really began to take off," he said. "I had put out a few rock pop albums at that time that secured a lot of radio play but I could see the market was changing."

As luck would have it, the jump blues or swing genre James adopted next with his new Little Big Band foreshadowed a big band swing music revival throughout North America approximately some five years later.

The result: Colin James’ music was being played in dance halls throughout the continent. He insists it is not a trend he consciously predicted.

"You play and write music because you have a genuine love of doing it," he explained. "Kirk Cobain and Nirvana were riding the wave at that time and it just gave me an opportunity to explore another style of music I’d always enjoyed."

It was a move that paid off, with his first album Colin James & the Little Big Band gaining double platinum status in Canada and his subsequent 1998 acoustic blues album, National Steel, winning him a Juno Award for Best Blues Recording. He was also named best producer in 1999 for his work on Colin James & The Little Big Band II. Over the course of his career he has been called to the podium on five other occasions to accept Juno awards.

However, Colin James certainly isn’t resting on his laurels. His upcoming concert in Whistler signals the start of an across-Canada tour to promote his newly released CD, Fuse . The album is another departure from his musical path of the past 10 years and to James, a satisfying return to his musical roots.

"I feel like I have come full circle with this album because its rock/pop content picks up where my first two albums – Colin James and Sudden Stop – left off.

"Even more satisfying is that Fuse is a full length recording and the first original record I have produced in 10 years," he said. Plus the pop style has fewer boundaries than producing songs through the classic acoustic rhythm and blues formula, he added.

Signs appear positive that the market is ready to welcome the funky guitar-driven rock originals that Fuse has to offer. James says the dominance of boy and pop bands shows that alternative music is taking a backseat to more upbeat styles.

"Blues tends to undergo a revival every 10 years like it did with the song Mustang Sally for example," he explained. "Trends often pick you up and carry you along but it’s disastrous to try and chase them."

But you can chase the trendsetter himself, at the conference centre next weekend.