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Still searching for the Holy Grail

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In 1999, Colin James and the Little Big Band II scooped the Best Producer accolade at the Junos. Two originals, Rocket to the Moon, and Triple Shot, were featured on the album, examples of his continuing tribute to swing style.

His most recent album, Fuse , is a collaboration with drummer Pat Stewart and Craig Northey of Vancouver band The Odds. The next record is due for release this summer, and promises to be "really listeneable." He adds, "We’re not going to chase radio on this one, which has become really polarized anyhow.

"But as long as you have that, you always have that carrot dangling, that motivation to make it better."

With plans to promote Fuse in Europe and the new album in the works, it’s hard to believe there was ever a time when he was busking on the streets.

But he doesn’t dwell on that. James is all about the positive messages.

"Believe in yourself," he tells emerging guitar players, and "watch your hands.

"Make sure your heart is really in it, (because) it’s not easy, and takes a long time."

Born in 1964 as Colin James Munn in Regina, James left home at 16 to pursue his career.

His first band was called Hoodoo Men, but there were numerous improv jam sessions on the road to success.

Of his mainstay, shuffle and blues, he simply calls it "a feeling; you either have it or you don’t."

With talent and a bit of luck hooking up in concert with the late Texas blues great Stevie Ray Vaughn in 1983, James always seemed positioned on the road to success.

He met Vaughn by chance through a "right time, right place" meeting, when the opening act for Vaughn’s concert cancelled at the last minute and James was called in.

"‘Who are you?’ he said to me when I was in the dressing room backstage, and I said ‘I’m Colin James, and I’m performing at your concert tonight,’ to which he said ‘Well nice to meet ya!’"

But when he started playing swing music around 1993, people thought James was out of his mind. He quips, "there’s a certain amount of honesty that comes across in how you deliver something," a formula he has mastered in show after show.