PROFILE: David James sings ‘Man in Black’ songs in White Rock (with video)

PROFILE: David James sings 'Man in Black' songs in White Rock (with video)

WHITE ROCK — Surprisingly, the man known for his eerily dead-on impersonation of the Man in Black never saw himself performing country tunes — legendary Johnny Cash songs, no less.

It wasn’t until the release of the 2005 Johnny Cash biopic, Walk The Line, was brought to David James’ attention by his then-girlfriend that the singer even flirted with the idea of covering Cash’s famous songs.

“It was Walk The Line, the movie’s fault,” James told the Now over the phone. “I fell in love with the whole story about him and I decided to just sing along. It’s kind of a third-party situation where I act like him and sing like him.”

(Scroll to bottom to see promo video)

James and his tribute act Big River — which includes Todd Sacrety on bass, Colin Stevenson on drums and Duncan Symonds on guitar — perform almost every weekend as Johnny Cash and his band, detailing the late rock-country star’s career from his early days down to his final cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt”.

James, a father of three, admits that he wasn’t into pop or country music at all in his younger days but now enjoys taking the stage, sometimes even with his 15-year-old daughter who’s spotlighted as his June Carter Cash in the past.

“I could lie to you and say (I’m a fan),” he said earnestly, “but honestly I’m more of a metal head. I grew up on Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath back in the day. I didn’t even know about ‘Folsom Prison (Blues)’ to be honest. I knew ‘A Boy Named Sue’ and ‘Ring of Fire.’”

James got a gentle push from many of his peers to sing music other than the metal he was used to in his college years.

“I said, ‘Ah, I’ll sing country when I’m older.’ And, well, I’m older,” he said with a laugh.

While the man who plays the Man in Black is used to holding the show on his own, he admits that sometimes what makes the show is a good June Carter Cash — and they haven’t all been good.

“A lot of the time, we pull June Carters out of the crowd,” he said. “Sometimes they sound really good and most times they don’t. They’re just karaoke stars that thought that they could do it and they forget half the lyrics so I end up singing half the song for them.”

At the upcoming Big River show at Coast Capital Playhouse, professional singer Darla Kendrick will be singing as James’ paramour in “Jackson” and other songs, something the Cash impersonator has no qualms with. There might even be an appearance by a junior June Carter Cash, according to James.

David James and Big River play a tribute to Johnny Cash at White Rock’s Coast Capital Playhouse on Saturday, Aug. 23. Tickets are $42.50 at the playhouse’s box office, by phone at 604-536-7535 or online at