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Still searching for the Holy Grail

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Colin James and the endless road

Who: Colin James, with opening act Chin

What: Whistler Jazz and Blues Festival

Where: Whistler Conference Centre

When: June 15, 8 p.m.

He’s a "meet the parents" kind of rock star.

Colin James headlines this year’s Whistler Jazz and Blues Weekend, June 14 through 16. Last year’s festival, which was scheduled for Sept. 13-16 was cancelled following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Unfazed by the glitz of the industry or the unending questions of journalists, James is a lively, amicable guy who apologizes for ringing through 20 minutes late from a car phone in North Vancouver.

You can almost picture him playing a Fender Strat. one minute, frisbee golf the next. The guitar model has always been James’ first choice on the road to success, as he created his signature blues and swing sound throughout the ’90s.

James says the beauty of blues is in the shift.

"This is really emotional music so it changes night to night," he says, with the track Of All the Things To Throw Away on the 2000 album Fuse serving as testimony.

"Sometimes you lay down a song, and if you feel heavy in your heart, that comes across, but that feeling changes from night to night."

Considered by some to be the modern day harbinger of swing music in Canada, that sway of a song is James’ specialty.

"I’ve kept it fresh by moving around musically. I don’t consider myself a blues player, but everything I do starts from that point."

A family man happily married for 10 years, James maintains a healthy thirst for "the new new thing," as author Michael Lewis might put it.

"I’m still searching for that perfect record, the one where you sit back and say ‘that’s the record I always wanted to make.’"

Despite six Junos (including two for Best Male Vocalist and one for Best Blues Recording for 1998’s National Steel ) and successfully completing albums in two different genres, blues and big band swing, he’s still looking for the Holy Grail – a perspective that fuels his song writing.

"Writing’s such an odd thing – generally I always write with partners. And if you’re going to be in a room that long with someone, you might as well enjoy it!"

His first album was the self-titled Colin James in 1988. Sudden Stop was 1990’s project, followed by the introduction of Colin James and the Little Big Band in 1993. The "jump blues" album went on to sell 200,000 copies in Canada, testifying to the genre’s popularity. Bad Habits followed (1995), then National Steel .

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