By Steve Hubrecht 

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Canadian blues rock legend Colin James is coming to Invermere very soon.

James has been playing professionally for four decades, and first catapulted to national fame in the 1990s when his ‘Colin James and the Little Big Band II’ album was released during the height of the swing revival. He’s won seven Juno Awards, 20 Maple Blues Awards, and played all around the world, including a performance for Queen Elizabeth II during the Queen’s visit to Saskatchewan in 2005 (at the Queen’s request).

So why is a bona fide star musician coming to Invermere?

James said he’s not picky about where he plays, and in fact greatly enjoys giving concerts in small towns across Canada.

“I love B.C. I love the mountains,” he told the Pioneer. “There’s not many places in Canada that I haven’t played.”

He’s played two different shows on Baffin Island — one at Pond Inlet, at the island’s northern tip, and one in Iqaluit. (James went along with former CBC broadcaster Peter Gzowski as part of a trip to promote literacy). He’s played in most of the small towns in the Maritimes, the Prairies, Ontario, Quebec, the west coast, Whitehorse and Great Slave Lake, and recently in Churchill, Manitoba (where he missed seeing a large group of polar bears by just one day). James has played in the Columbia Valley before too — coming to Radium with the Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC) rail company (formerly known as CPR)’s holiday train.

James began playing music at a young age, picking up his older brothers’ guitars and eventually learning the mandolin and playing Celtic and bluegrass music. By 10 years old he was in a band, playing shows around Regina, his hometown. He quit school at age 16 and moved to Winnipeg, where he formed a band called the Hoodoo Men. When he was 20, he ended up opening for iconic blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan.

James was mostly playing blues and blues rock, but did release the swing-infused ‘Colin James and the Little Big Band I’ in 1993. “It did really well,” said James. “The swing revival thing hadn’t started then, so it felt like we were doing something unique.” ‘Colin James and the Little Big Band II’ came out five years later, and swing wasn’t obscure anymore. The album did very well indeed.

James later released ‘Colin James and the Little Big Band III’, but he also continued to play blues and to dabble in other genres, such as steel guitar, and acoustic singer-songwriter tunes.

“If you’re in it for the long run, there’ll be ups and downs. If you quit, you never know how it will turn out, so when you hit a tough spot, you need to re-invent yourself,” said James. “Diversifying the music you play is a good idea. Recently I’ve toured as a three-piece band, but I still do the singer-songwriter stuff. I still sometimes tour as a little big band with a four-member horn section, and I still do rock shows. I’ve reinvented myself so many times now that I feel ready for anything.”

James promised the show in Invermere will be “a high energy evening. We always put our backs into it.” He will play the concert with a five-piece band – two guitars, bass, drums and keyboard and said “we’ll be playing anything from the big hits, to older songs, and the new stuff too.”

The show in Invermere is part of the “Boogie Bash” put on by Mountain Home Productions, at the Eddie Mountain Arena on Saturday, May 18. Columbia Valley band Humongous Fungus will open for James. 

The event is all ages. There are limited number of discounted early bird tickets and there is also a VIP seating area near the stage (VIPs also get use of the upstairs lounge and private bar). The show is from 7 to 11 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets range in price from $55 to $95.