Read through the liner notes for any of the roots albums made in Winnipeg in the past five years and there’s a good chance you’ll see Sol James’ name in the small print.

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This article was published 29/8/2019 (778 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Read through the liner notes for any of the roots albums made in Winnipeg in the past five years and there’s a good chance you’ll see Sol James’ name in the small print.

The 35-year-old Winnipegger has a golden voice, rich in tone and texture and sought after by many in the biz to bring brightness and life as a backing vocalist — including on tracks for notable acts such as the Weber Brothers, Billy Joe Green Band, Dusty Roads Band, New Customs, the Small Glories or Red Moon Road.

Supplied</p><p>Heart and Sol: Winnipeg musician Sol James wants her ‘songs to speak to people and I want them to be honest.’</p>

Supplied

Heart and Sol: Winnipeg musician Sol James wants her ‘songs to speak to people and I want them to be honest.’

Next week, however, James’ name will be front and centre, on the cover of her new EP, Fighting, the release of which she will mark with a show at the West End Cultural Centre on Sept. 5.

James is best known for her work with a pair of soul/funk/Motown bands — Retro Rhythm Review and the Solutions — and her debut solo EP, 2012’s Sol James, highlighted her skills as a country songstress.

Fighting takes things down yet another sonic path, but what ties everything together is James’ distinctive voice.

"I’m taking a bit of a foray into the roots/blues as opposed to country sound," James says, "but you know, I mostly just want to sing the crap out of things. I just want to write songs that are relevant because they are ideas that have come out. I’ve found that that’s been my style recently and I want my voice to be the bridge between the styles and things that I sing.

"The release… has the horns on it and the whole EP, it’s hard to put your finger on what my style is — that’s deliberate, so that I can have my voice be the thing that is the tie between these songs."

James graduated from the University of Manitoba’s jazz program and says her time spent there honing her technical chops has been a major asset as she continues to navigate her way through countless genres, both as a solo artist and as a "musician for hire," singing on other albums or at weddings and events.

"I graduated from school and thought I was going to be a jazz singer, but wrote music that didn’t sound at all like jazz, and it’s definitely that technical training that gave me the versatility and the tools to tackle different styles of music," James says, noting she is about to complete a degree in musical therapy.

Supplied photo</p>

Supplied photo

Fighting is a Winnipeg-made record through and through; all the players are local, as is the producer, Ariel Posen. James has worked with Posen for much of her career — he played guitar on her debut and they were bandmates in Retro Rhythm Review (Posen also plays with the Bros. Landreth and released his own solo record earlier this year) — and was a pivotal part of the creation of the EP for James.

"Ariel and I have been playing together for years. We’ve done a lot of different kinds of music together, which is why he was the perfect choice to produce the EP... his guitar work has really integrated into how I write for guitar and his ideas for guitar have really been integral to the sound that I have," James says.

Though just a brief five songs, the Fighting EP is a very personal one for James. She fell in love six years ago and has penned a track for her partner; she has several family members who struggle with mental illness and has written a song for them, too. She has recognized how perspectives change over time and how flawed we all are as humans and she has filtered that sentiment into the title track.

"I want my songs to speak to people and I want them to be honest, but they’re very much of my observed perspective and I find people really relate to that. I’ve had a lot of good feedback," James says.

"I think it’s a really great representation of what we have to offer in the music scene in Winnipeg; it’s made by all locals, played on by all locals, we should be really proud of our scene here.

"And it’s a triumphant return for me to continue to create and move forward with my own life and work."

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @NireRabel

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Manager of audience engagement for news

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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