There is a saying; “Class is permanent, form is temporary” well that applies here, ‘Miles To Go’ is an album that takes songs from the vaults of blues music and sets about restoring them for the modern audience. It’s a strange concept for an album but one that succeeds in all aspects of what it is trying to achieve. Calling it a restoration project is very close to what it is and it never feels cheap or a quick fix to sell albums, it’s lovingly done and it’s clear there are two agenda’s; firstly to reintroduce us to songs that were written decades ago (one is from 1927!) possibly by people the musical world have begun to forget and, secondly, to remind us how strong, and relevant, these songs sound when handled correctly.
Canadian blues man Colin James has been writing and recording albums since the late 1980’s and he clearly holds this style of music dear because the songs are perfectly reintroduced to the new century with care and consideration.
Original blues singers like Muddy Waters, Little Willie John, Blind Lemon Jefferson and others had nothing like today’s production quality so to take these scratchy-sounding tracks and give them a make-over with new arrangements, musical parts and production methods breathes new life into these tracks, and the end result is a homage to the old ways while keeping it relevant to todays blues audience.
In parts the album feels like a who’s who of modern blues with little hints and nods to artists like Eric Clapton, BB King, John Mayer, Tedeschi Trucks Band and the guitar tone of Mark Knopfler (particularly on ‘Black Night’). There is also the influence of Chicago soul and ‘I Need Your Love So Bad’ could be a Ray Charles track. The feel of the album draws from different parts of the blues spectrum but never feels disconnected, which is down to the safe hands these songs are left in.
On the first listen the album felt very generic but then you realise these songs are the base ingredients to what blues music was (and has become) and then it all makes sense. As well as having nine reinvented songs, James has included two self-written songs; ’40 Light Years’ and ‘I Will Remain’, these sit nicely in the mix and, again, they don’t feel disconnected. This is an album steeped in the history of a genre as popular today as it was 40 years ago, written by someone who obviously loves and cherishes this kind of music. If you like any style of blues this is well worth a listen because it bridges the gap between old and new and proves that blues still has something to say.