Awards & CD & Gig Reviews

Thank you to all my Friends & Fans  from Coast to Coast in Canada, who voted for me and made me the Winner of
'The Blues with a Feeling Award' (Lifetime Achievement for Blues Music in Canada)

...I Love You!!

Bluesfully Yours,
Paul James


January 2011 * INTERVIEW by Lisa McDonald ( with Paul James in celebration of his 60th birthday party held at the Sound Academy in Toronto.



Last night the audience at The Music Hall got three different shows for the price of one. The opening (somewhat) acoustic set began with Paul James playing two songs solo with acoustic and steel resonator guitars. He was then joined by Terry Wilkins and Bucky Berger on acoustic bass and drums for the interim. The blues material was a mix of Paul James originals and covers of Robert Johnson, Bo Diddeley, Bill Monroe/Elvis and even Johnny Horton(!) Yes, they did "North To Alaska." It was all good fun, including the kazoo on the ragtime tunes.
The second set featured headliner John Hammond solo. He brought his harmonica, an acoustic guitar and a steel resonator guitar. Surprisingly, the guitars were not plugged in - he played with only a mic on a stand positioned in front of the guitar, similar to the bass in the first set. Surprise or not, it worked well.

Hammond knows his genre well too. His originals fit right in with the covers of Robert Johnson, Lightnin' Slim, Howlin' Wolf, Blind Willie McTell, Sleepy John Estes, Little Walter, Jimmie Rogers and others.

The final set had all parties on stage, fully plugged in and with electric guitars. The material was from the same sources as earlier with even Chuck Berry's "Nadine" thrown in. That drew a crowd to the dance floor which I'm guessing John Hammond doesn't see too often at his shows. Paul James slide work was great.

During his solo set Hammond told a tale of being eighteen in 1961, driving to Chicago to be introduced to old blues players by Mike Bloomfield. Those "old" men were in their late forties and early fifties. After the laughter died down, the now sixty-seven-years-old performer played Robert Johnson's "Come On In My Kitchen", a song that he has been playing for more years than Johnson was alive. Carry on John, and do drop by again.

CD Title: Lost In The Blues
Year: 2007
Record Label: Lick 'N' Stick Records
Style: Blues

Musicians: Paul James (lead/rhythm guitar, lead vocals, blues harp), Gary Gray (piano, organ), Alec Fraser (bass), Henry De Clemente (drums)

Guitar great (and Juno Award winner) Paul James has a new CD out, appropriately called Lost in the Blues. This CD is completely new and "all-original" Paul James songs that do justice to his creativity as a songwriter and his imaginative talent as both a guitarist, singer and "ear" for picking the right people to back him in his Paul James Band.

The title track "Lost In The Blues" opens this highly enjoyable and upbeat CD, with its catchy lyrics, guitar riffs and vocals. Gary Gray’s keyboard playing is a highlight and adds much to this song. Next up is "Cut You Loose," a medium-tempo blues ballad which again features a mouthwatering piano solo by Gray. He has been with Paul’s band for over 25 years and has an instinctive feel for the "James" trademark "sound," which audiences far and wide know and love and come out to hear in droves at Paul’s many live show dates per year, including the packed house for Paul’s CD release party for ‘Lost …’ at Jeff Healey’s Roadhouse here in Toronto, across from Wayne Gretsky’s place on Blues Jays Way, north of the Rogers Centre.

Paul’s leads on the "Lost …" title track are uplifting, and blend well with his lead vocals, which have a tinge of the old Bob Dylan’s tone, but are James’ own familiar style and always hit the mark! Incidentally, Paul has performed with Dylan at his shows several times over the years. Dylan has even been known to show up at Paul’s own gigs when he’s in town and perform with him. The same can be said for roots blues master John Hammond, who is a close friend of Paul’s.

Wild rockabilly guitar licks are the featured intro to Paul’s "Boogie Woogie Baby" ("She’s my barrelhouse BBQ.") Gray takes over with energetic piano soloing, after which drummer Henry De Clemente plays a melodic beat on the skins that seems to "sing" the lyrics. (De Clemente is a familiar face to this writer who attended many of his performances over the years with The Bottle Devils. TBD’s featured Gus Papas and Alec Fraser sharing lead and rhythm guitar duties with De Clemente rockin’ it on drums along with ex-John Lee Hooker sideman Leo Valvassori on bass.)

Paul’s "Chuck Berry"-style leads on "Boogie … " come in a little later in this song and add to the "party all-night" atmosphere of this totally original Paul James composition.

"Bull Calf Blues" is something like the old "Milk Cow Blues," but with the James "magic touch" of originality coming through on vocals and guitar. Alec Fraser’s bass lines are pumpin’ on this one, as is Gray’s always-enjoyable juke-joint-style barrelhouse piano solos. Paul’s blues harp playing is also outstanding on this number, as is De Clemente always-enjoyable talent on the skins.

"Rockin’ The Blues Away" can do just what it says in the title. This "rockin’ little ditty" sure has what it takes to get a dance floor cookin’ the same as the Paul James Band does consistently onstage at every concert this writer has seen Paul play at. The "Chuck Berry feel" is contagious and makes this writer wish he was at a Paul James show right now instead of at home on this "non-musical" keyboard. Rock ‘n roll is definitely still alive and well on this awesome James original!!! This infectious and highly energetic pace continues with "Little Girl" ("you’re makin’ eyes at me"). This is the next best thing to a live James performance. His outstanding, lively leads show off well on this one, as does the whole band’s awesomely energetic backup.

Things become laid back in a true bluesy way when Paul declares "I’m Going Fishing" ("in my best fishing hole"). De Clemente’s talent on drums as well as Gray’s keyboards and Fraser’s bass lines are totally "in the pocket" on this one, finding their own blues "fishing hole" to pull a winner out of. Paul’s blues harp playing comes in just at the right time to lighten the pace a little part way through. Of course Paul’s "fish" has a little "lemon squeezed on it" courtesy of the "Robert Johnson "blues" Cookbook," c. 1928. This is followed by "You Don’t Love Me," a medium-tempo blues that moves along nicely and serves to highlight the strength of Paul’s gifted backup band, all of whom are the "cream of the crop" of Canadian blues artists.

Bassist Fraser is currently part of the Jeff Healey Band and tours with him. Fraser also performed for years with Juno Award winning guitarist Jack de Keyzer as well as Muddy Waters’ drummer Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. He is also an award-winning sound engineer and producer who co-produced this ‘Lost …’ CD with Paul and engineered it at his Liquid Toronto recording studio, after which it was mastered by Andy Krehm (who works with all the biggies in the biz) at Silverbirch Productions in Toronto.

The "Boogie" comes in hard and strong on this next one entitled "Love Changin’ Blues." Paul’s boogie guitar riffs heard here capture the feel of a south-side Chicago blues joint and keep it there. John Lee Hooker could be dancing onstage with his guitar to this one if he heard it (or can maybe) up in "Blues Heaven," the same way he did with Muddy Waters live outdoors at Newport in 1960. Paul’s slide is heard and "felt" on this one, just like with any of the old masters who were the originators ... like some who Paul used to sit in with, such as Robert Jr. Lockwood and Honeyboy Edwards and other notable, world-class blues impresarios.

Seems like an "Anywhere at all place, from palace to alleyway" when "The Blues Walk In," ("and gotcha in that downward spin") as Paul so aptly describes it in this song of the same name. "Like The Girl I Had Before" has a bit of a "fiesta" Latin beat to it, like a trip south of the border to any "border town" drinking hole with its own "Mexicali Rose."

"Jitterbug Swing" jives it up in high gear, just like old time swingin’ dances in the 40s and 50s did (that my mom so often described)! Paul’s scorching guitar riffs at times blend well and are a nice contrast with his vocals, which come through remarkably clear and lyrically descriptive.

"Trick Or Treat" is Paul’s bluesy answer to the "fun and games" at "Halloween." This upbeat number has the feel of party tunes heard in late ‘50s/early ‘60s movies like Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow (1959) and other great old "drive-in" classics of the time. The nostalgic and heartwarming mood of an old-fashioned Halloween party atmosphere from days gone by is captured with fun and vigor by the strong rhythm section harmony backing Paul describing "The girl I met at the party." This Halloween novelty song is also featured with another called "It’s Halloween" on Paul’s Halloween novelty CD of the same name from 2004. Both songs are a featured part of Paul’s website annually every Halloween.

Paul’s closing tune "Rosie" (dedicated to Paul’s "Rose," as this CD is too), is a medium-tempo love ballad with a Latin influenced rhythm that showcases Paul’s romantic vocals and entrancing blues harp playing. Its ending drifts off like there’s more to come on the "blues horizon," which there definitely is at each and every Paul James Band concert or solo shows Paul performs at. And, of course, on this awesome and very live-sounding Lost In The Blues CD as well as all of Paul James’ CD’s he has recorded for his fans over the ensuing decades. The enthusiasm never lets up with Paul James, either live or on CD, and that’s one thing his fans can always count on, including this writer.

Lost In The Blues, Cut You Loose, Boogie Woogie Baby, Bull Calf Blues, Rockin’ the Blues Away, Little Girl, I’m Going Fishing, You Don’t Love Me, Love Changin’ Blues, The Blues Walk In, Like The Girl I Had Before, Jitterbug Swing, Trick or Treat, Rosie

Reviewed by: Joe Curtis


Paul James Band La Vie en Bleu Lick 'N' Stick PJ002

This is a new album from Paul for his fans, his first of new recordings in fifteen years. In addition to four of his own songs, the CD contains new recordings of the most frequently requested songs by his fans over his career. His long time band is intact here with
Gary Gray, piano & organ; Brian Kipping, bass and Adrian Vecchiola, drums. Sarah McElcheran and Jim Bish are the horn section with Alec Fraser on occasional bass (and engineering). 

"Hey Now Rosie" is a new  song set to a Fred McDowell/R.L. Burnside riff that cooks along
nicely. Paul's Bob Dylan interpretations have the distinction being recognized by the man himself, with invitations to join the band at various Toronto area gigs over the years and there are three fine ones here: "Like a Rolling Stone", "It's All Over now Baby Blue" &
"Highway 61 Revisited". "Gloria", "Carol", "Louie Louie" (with
intelligible lyrics) and a couple of Stones songs are part of the
well-played program that should be a delight for fans.

John Valenteyn of Toronto Blues Society


Lick’n’Stick Records 2003

CD Review by Diane Wells

Even though Paul James has been a 25-year disciple of the Church of Rockin’ Blues (as opposed to being a psychologist or hair dresser), you’d still have to look closely for signs of ageing in this perpetual “rock and roll juvenile”.  Unlike some of his peers, Juno winner James has admirably stayed true to his love for “blackboard jungle” roots-rock.

Just as his third CD’s title seems to parallel Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose, Paul covers many songs that have immortalized female names like Carol, Gloria, (Sweet) Virginia and Caledonia, while “sliding” in his “Hey Now, Rosie”, following an earlier tribute entitled “Mary Ann”.  The latter is a foot-stompin’, hand-clapper along the lines of “Rollin’ and a-Tumblin’”, with Paul playing slide guitar that is neither lame nor overblown – a perfectly produced CD (and engineered by award-winning Alec Fraser).

With slightly gruff vocals that fall somewhere between Bruce Springsteen, Wolfman Jack and Fats Domino, Mr. James is adequately suited to sing either blues or rock.  His obvious affection for Bob Dylan and his music is displayed in refreshingly transfused versions of “Highway 61 Revisited”, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and “Like a Rolling Stone”, which band is given a second nod on the closing “Satisfaction”.

Richard Berry’s classic “Louie, Louie” follows “The Last Clean Shirt” (pronounced “Shoit”), written by Leiber & Stoller.  Unlike with “Hound Dog”, L & S gave co-writing credit to Johnny Otis on this rockin’ blues shuffle.  An outrageously spooky but amusing version of Willie Dixon’s “Red Rooster” is performed about midway through the CD.

“Red Hot Mama” is an innovative original merging brassy r&b with a slide guitar, and the laid-back funk of “Take It Easy” features Alec Fraser on bass, Sarah McElcheran on trumpet, Jim Bish on sax and Gary Gray, who thrills on keys throughout the CD.  The horns, arranged by Sarah, also stand out on “Caledonia”.  On the Bo Diddley-influenced “Gotta Gimme Some of It”, Alec gives a bit too much on bass, if only in volume level.

Bassist/background vocalist Brian Kipping and drummer/percussionist Adrian Vecchiola consistently keep the grooves in place, with nary a “skip” in the beat, except when those necessary “spaces” in traditional rhythm and blues call for it.  That being said, Mr. James puts the “rock” back into “rhythm and blues”, where it squarely belongs.

This CD is a must-have for people who truly believe that “rock and roll will never die”!

La Vie en Bleu
Paul James Band
CD – Canadian - 2003-08-01

CD Review by
Karla Ingleton-Darocas - -  Spain

It doesn't matter if it is deep blues, ragtime, swing, rolling rock, walking blues, electric blues or folk rock that gets you moving and grooving, it can all be found on the latest CD by Canadian party legend, Paul James. In tribute to his long standing fans and friends, Paul James and his band have put together an assembly of requested songs. Now, is this smart marketing or loyalty, in either case, the songs are musically faultless while the production is clear and crisp.

Paul James has carved a niche that has reached the hearts of many music lovers throughout the globe. Even his number one fan, fellow musician Bob Dylan, is paid homage on this new CD.

Without spoiling the surprise of this CD, let me say that it features all of Paul’s super-sonic vocals that express and accentuate the themes of all the songs. If he is singing about pain, you can expect to hear some groans. If he is singing about sex, you can expect to hear some groans. However, it is exactly those entertaining qualities, yells, shouts, groans and whispers, which add to the frenzy and excitement of the songs. Of course, Paul James has a vocal inflection that can’t be compared to anyone either. His voice is as unique a trademark as his guitar style. Picking and sliding his way through a variety of themes ranging from poverty to death, sex to loneliness, women to alienation – Paul’s guitar wildly or gently sparks the mood. 

As I stated, the musicianship is flawless, as it should be after performing together as a solid band for over 25 years. How many bands can state that? Gary Gray has always managed to dazzle on the keys, while Brian Kipping could melt butter on the bass. Hard-hitting action has always backboned this band thanks to Adrian Vecchiola. On this CD, a couple of the jazzier / raggier tunes feature Sarah McElcheran on trumpet and Jim Bish on saxaphones.

Alec Fraser of Toronto, who over the years has developed a sharp ear for the blues and hence knows how to stage its delivery with a sharp punch without loosing the raw energy, did the engineering of this CD. The tracks flow with the intuitive arrangement benched on what the listener would want to hear in the course of a night.

Again, without tossing the baby out with the bathwater, I would like to mention some of the new tracks scripted by Paul James. The others are about sex… that is all I am going to say. You will have to find out more for yourself!

CD Review - Paul James - ‘La Vie en Bleu’

by Joe Curtis

Paul James is one of the finest blues talents in Canada.  His history in the music business dates back decades – from the age of 14, when he sat in with folk and blues ‘greats’ in the coffeehouse district of Yorkville, in Toronto, Canada.  Paul’s had the pleasure of backing Bo Diddley for almost two decades from the early ‘70s right up to the late ‘90s.  He’s performed on stage recently with Bob Dylan in a few venues in Canada and the U.S.A., including Toronto’s ACC that seats over 20,000 music fans.  ‘Mr. Bojangles’ Dylan has even attended Paul’s gigs.  Likewise, Paul’s attended a rare nightclub concert of Dylan’s recently, at Toronto’s Koolhaus, (where the Rolling Stones performed in 1993 when the venue was known as R.P.M.)

Paul’s most recent CD release – the first in over a decade – ‘La Vie en Bleu’, although not a live recording, has truly captured the energy and feel of a wildly live Paul James Band performance.  In concert Paul wanders through the audience, guitar in hand, and sometimes behind his neck; serenading the ladies with his upbeat brand of blues and R&B.

La Vie en Bleu’ begins with a rousing version of Leiber & Stoller’s “The Last Clean Shirt”.  This tune’s got all the inviting energy that’s needed to kick start your day ... or evening as the case may be!  Richard Berry’s ‘60s classic “Louie, Louie” is given new life in Paul’s very able musical hands ... and is hard-drivin’ all the way!  So is Bob Dylan’s rousing and deeply moving “Like a Rolling Stone”, which has been a favorite of mine that Paul performs – ever since the first time I saw him play it with his band Lick ‘n’ Stick at Toronto’s ‘Yonge St. Station’ back in ‘73 or ‘74.

Paul’s version of Chuck Berry’s “Carol” is guaranteed to get the dance floor movin’ ‘n’ groovin’ if nothing else will.  More powerful than a triple of Jack Daniels!!! 

These winners are followed by Paul’s original “Red Hot Mama” .. a medium tempo catchy ditty that’s got a beat that’s ‘born to please’ as the song goes.  Paul’s slide playing on this one seems to sing like it’s alive!  “Take It Easy” follows, with lyrics like “Hurry and worry, kills the man” – a meditative bit of insight by “one who knows.”  Paul’s ‘wa-wa’ is killer in this captivating James original!

One of Paul’s strong points is his mouth-watering slide guitar playing.  In concert he’s made use of anything handy including beer bottles, mic stands etc. to get some of the most enchanting and mesmerizing slide that his National Steel acoustic and red hollow-body electric Guild can deliver.  This writer would wager it’s some of the best slide that could be heard anywhere – including along the banks of the mighty Mississippi – the real birth place of the blues – even though Chicago has claimed that ‘name to fame’ many times... and with some justification.

Nowhere is Paul’s amazingly entertaining (and absolutely ingenious) talent on slide guitar more evident than in Willie Dixon’s classic blues composition, “Little Red Rooster”.  Paul’s invigorating version of this much-loved blues classic, could ‘get zombies out to pick cotton, where there ain’t no cotton to pick!

Paul’s acoustic virtuosity is heard and enjoyed to its utmost on a very roots-based James original, “Hey Now, Rosie”.  This tune is much in the style and delivery of Hambone Willie Newbern’s “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” – but performed in Paul’s own unique way.  ** (Newbern’s “Rollin’ …” riffs inspired two of Robert Johnson’s immortal blues classics -- “If I had Possession Over Judgement Day”, and “Travelling Riverside Blues”. Both these songs make use of Hambone Willie’s “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” riff.  Muddy Waters uses this same riff on his “Diving Duck Blues”; as does Howling Wolf on his “Meet Me In the Bottom”).  I feel you may agree after hearing Paul’s “Hey Now, Rosie” rendition, that what’s good enough for blues legends like Waters and Wolf, is good enough for present day blues legend James.

Paul follows this early, energized blues offering with Fleecie Moore’s upbeat “Caladonia”, that’s influenced by the version Louis Jordan made into a hit.  There’s some incredibly melodic lead guitar riffs in this tune, courtesy of Paul’s able fingers, as well as some very appetizing rhythm guitar.  Sarah McElcheran’s trumpet and Jim Bish’s sax playing shine through too, in this well-loved classic.

Things slow down a bit, with a relaxed, heartfelt version of ‘Mr. Bojangles’ Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”.  Gary Gray’s inventive piano riffs, as well as Brian Kipping’s melodic bass lines and Adrian Vecchiola’s drums and percussion add beautiful harmony and depth to Paul’s interpretive vocals and haunting harp playing.  The pace picks up considerably with Paul’s quintessential version of Van Morrison’s “G.L.O.R.I.A.”

Paul’s rendition of Dylan’s “Highway 61" definitely ranks right up there with versions I’ve heard from blues guitar icons like Johnny Winter and Joe Walsh.  Vecchiola’s fetching talent on the skins, along with Kipping’s thumpin’ ‘n’ pumpin’ bass lines and Gray’s beautiful piano playing, really gets this one going full blast!  So do Paul’s incredible vocals and mesmerizing slide guitar talent.  I know this isn’t a live version, but the energy and clarity it possesses could definitely fool many into thinking it is!

Paul plays a captivating harp intro to the Rolling Stones’ classic “Sweet Virginia”.  This country/blues/rock ditty features Gray’s dancing fingers tinkling the ivories, along with Kipping’s rousing bass lines and Vecchiola’s engrossing drumming – all adding much to Paul’s strong vocals and guitar playing.  This song is aptly followed by Paul’s original “Gotta Gimme Some Lovin’”; featuring more of Paul’s superb slide guitar playing – in fact a beautiful slide-‘fest’ of Paul’s outstanding talent on the six-string! It also features the fine talents of Alec Fraser on bass and background vocals. :(In addition to playing bass on this track, Fraser also engineered this CD masterpiece at his Juno/Maple Blues Award-winning Liquid Studio in Toronto).

The finale to this out-of-this-world entertaining Paul James CD, ‘La Vie en Bleu’ is the Stones’ consistently satisfying, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”.  This writer has seen the Stones perform this tune on many occasions – the most recent being only 20 people from the stage at Sarstock in Toronto July 30, 2003, along with 490,000 other Stones/music fans   Even with having all this live Stones exposure, I have to honestly admit that Paul’s version of “Satisfaction” is without a doubt just as good in every way as the version the Stones perform themselves – only different!  But, not that ‘different’ – just unique to the true ‘star’ quality James brings forth from his soul and heart into this and every tune on this 15-song/hour-long encapsulation of the essence of a true blues/R&B/rock ‘n’ roll entertainer that Paul James definitely is!

The Paul James Band has succeeded in every way in coming up with the best rock ‘n’ roll/R&B/blues to entertain us with in ‘La Vie en Bleu’.  This very fine and worthwhile CD is a true masterpiece of musical entertainment at its very best – and as such, is a worthy and necessary addition to any music lover’s collection.  I sincerely give it my highest recommendation!!!  This is most definitely a ‘five-star’ CD if I’ve ever heard one!  It’s one of this writer’s favorite CD’s to listen to ... I hope you make it yours, too!

Paul James' guitar licks are so blistering even Bob Dylan is a fan.

The crowd-pleasing blues and rockabilly guitarist is no slouch as a storyteller of the blues, the roots of rock 'n' roll and how he came to meet his hero either. It was 1986 at a Scarborough club called the Nag's Head North. Still playing his wireless guitar and clad in a signature ruffled purple tuxedo shirt, James wandered over to the bar and ordered a drink. 

"It's a little shtick I have," He explains. "I was playing with one hand and drinking a beer with the other hand. This guy steps in front of me, His face is a foot in front of me.
It's Bob Dylan." 

James whispered that he wouldn't tell anyone Dylan was there. the grizzled folk icon asked to join him on stage. "He says introduce me as a hitch-hiker from Vancouver," James said. "We
played a two-hour set. After that, we went back to my place and sat on the floor and played the guitar until 10 in the morning. Dylan kept calling for Toronto gigs and a few years ago invited James up on stage in Buffalo to play Highway 61 and Like a Rolling Stone in front
of a massive stadium crowd. So it's no surprise that those tunes turn up on the Paul James Band's new disc, La Vie en Blue. After releasing discs of acoustic blues and original tunes, it's a collection of the Juno and Toronto Blues Awards winning guitarist's most requested tunes. It's masterful guitar turned to a rock and roll station rooted in the blues, long before the bloated stadium rock of the 1970s and the glossily overproduced offerings on the dial now. There's a trio of Dylan songs - listen for It's All Over Now Baby Blue, too - a version of Louie Louie with intelligible lyrics and some Stones, including Sweet Virginia and Satisfaction. Then throw in Chuck Berry's Carol and Willie Dixon's Red Rooster and four original tunes for good measure. Best of all is Hey Now Rosie, a new James composition critics point to for cooking along nicely to a Fred McDowell/R.L. Burnside riff. 

"Sometimes you have to go back and get in touch with all the roots," he said. That's where I've been - that early rock 'n' roll stuff. I try to make it work for the 2000s. 

"The early days of the Rolling Stones and the Chicago Blues - I always thought that was the best stuff.

Everything built up to that, that was the high point. After that, everything went down.

" The rock gods of the 1960's listened to the blues - Paul McCartney famously on American short-wave radio - then played fast and sweaty rock on the club scene. After 35 years as a
professional musician - "I'm sort of the age of Stevie Ray Vaughn if he was alive" - James says he's stayed true to his first love. "A lot of people follow the trends," he said. "I pretty much stayed where I am and tried to get better at it. I would say I do what I do well.
When I get up to play, I have a really good time. "It has nothing to do with pyrotechnics - it's the performing and bringing it right down to the basics of early rock 'n' roll. There's' magic to that music. If it wasn't for that music we wouldn't know who the Beatles or the Rolling Stones or Dylan are."

Reviewed by: Megan Gillis from 'The Recorder and Times'

Playing with Bob Dylan Among Highlights of Rocker's Career


Oct 3, 2003

Imagine sitting in a New York nightclub back in 1986, watching a lively, young musician perform classic rock 'n' roll while adding classic moves to the music.

The musician is Paul James, who enjoys entertaining the crowd while playing music he loves.

Bob Dylan was watching and asked to join James on stage.

"I'm an entertainer. It comes from working with Bo Diddley when I was young. So I don't stand still on stage," said James, who likes to play guitar behind his back or do the duck walk. "Sometimes I walk over to the bar while playing, have a drink with one hand while playing with the other, and, in this instance, Bob Dylan approached me. We agreed to get him on stage to play."

That night, Dylan didn't want to play his own songs and instead opted to perform James'.

They played late into the night, moving to James' house once the club closed to pass the guitar around until next morning.

After that, Dylan would frequently stop by James' shows and even asked him to open for him.

"I've always maintained independence so it helped me along," explained James.

He'll be in Burlington Nov. 25 at the Slye Fox for the CD release party of his latest album, La Vie en Bleu.

This new CD has 11 frequently-requested cover songs he has played over the past 25 years while four songs are James' own.

James decided years ago to record independently after his first experience went sour.

His first band, Lick 'n' Stick, was signed with CBS Records, before it became Sony Records.

"I wasn't happy with what was being recorded," he recalled. "I had no control. They wanted disco, so were adding female vocals and these disco beats, while I was early rock 'n' roll style. I couldn't do the disco thing anymore and the band broke up."

He organized the Paul James Band, releasing single after single. He then played a show with Bo Diddley, who asked James to back him on a film soundtrack.

"That was a shot in the arm for me," said James, who was influenced by Diddley, Chuck Berry, and later, Bruce Springsteen. "I became known for backup blues and was hired by an American band called Mink De Ville."

James had a taste of fame touring Europe with Mink De Ville, which was huge there, and partying with the Rolling Stones.

Once he returned to Canada he decided to put all his singles together, and those he wrote while on the road, and recorded an album, originally called Almost Crazy in 1984, and re-released in 1999 as Lazy, Crazy Blues.

He also released Acoustic Blues, originally in 1988 but re-released in 1999. The Toronto resident won a Juno in 1991 for Best Roots/Traditional recording.

La Vie en Bleu (2003) was recorded for the fans, said James.

"People frequently want me to play these cover songs. I figured I'd give them what they want," he said. "For the length of time I've been in this business (more than 25 years), my recorded output is fairly low. I'm going to make up for lost time and start recording now."

James will always stick with the melodies of classic rock and the roots of blues when it comes to performing and recording.

"Music always comes back to classic rock," he said. "Blues is the root -- blues had a baby and it was rock 'n' roll. But to me, classic rock is the best."

James said he'll put on a show here that will defy his age.

"I'm going to hit my audience between the eyes," he said. "I think this is my best album to date and I feel good. I still have as much energy as I did when I was 22 and I still love what I do."

Paul James
Valentines Day Party
Silver Dollar Room
Toronto ON

krewechief's Live Music Blog

For two nights last fall Paul James was a guest guitarist on Bob Dylan's NeverEnding Tour. He's been onstage with Bob before...usually for a one-song appearance on a few occasions, though he did do 4 songs in Buffalo in 1999. This time he replaced a guitarist from Dylan's Cowboy Band for 5 songs. Those were the 10 most enjoyable songs I've heard from Bob's stage since Freddy Koella left the tour in 2004. He absolutely lit a spark under the band.

Too bad that experiment ended.

On the upside, James graces the stage at the Silver Dollar Room on a regular basis. This past weekend he held a party for all the ladies and my better-half and I were treated to an enjoyable evening of blues and rock.

He's a Canadian blues icon...which is not unlike being the best hockey player in doesn't get you a lot of press. He's backed the likes of Willie DeVille and Bo Diddley, garnered the respect of John Hammond and Bob Dylan, so ain't no one here going to question his credentials.

Had a moment to chat with him before the show and during the break in sets. He seemed genuinely humbled by my observations of his effect on Dylan's band. Extra interested in the Freddy Koella note as he asked if I knew what he was up to these days. Seems he worked with him at Montreaux in 1992. Small blue world, I guess.

James brings a lot of energy to the stage. He has a preferred move of playing the guitar behind his head while doing a dervish across the stage. Had he done this just once during the fall Dylan stand he'd be a legend in that online community.

During a 9 minute version of Nadine he ventured into the crowd, made his way to the bar, drank a beer while playing with one hand and closed with a bottle-neck slide exhibition. (It was while performing this stunt at the Nag's Head Tavern in 1986 that he found himself beside Bob Dylan...who joined him onstage. ) A crowd pleaser. Can't be a much higher accolade for a musician.

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