James Cohen and the Prairie Roots Rockers are a Canadian roots rock band based out of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Founded in 2011 by front man James Cohen, the band is proud to be on the SoccerMom Records/Warner Music Canada label. Their debut album released in October 2011 featured two songs that went on to receive considerable national airplay including the lead- off single “So Long Sweet Deception” which appeared in the Mediabase Canadian Active Rock Top 50 Chart for 16 weeks and achieved a top weekly position of #32 nationally. “These Long Nights” also received strong airplay especially in the Southern Ontario market during the summer of 2012. The band released two more singles in 2013 entitled “Sweet Lady Jane” and “Freight Train” that also received commercial airplay in select markets.
The Prairie Roots Rockers also feature some of Winnipeg’s finest musicians all of whom bring impressive resumes to the band. Lloyd Peterson (guitars, backing vocals) not only fronted one of Winnipeg’s most popular bands (The Cheer) but is also a very highly respected producer in town who has worked with everyone from Los Lobos to the Weakerthans. Bruce Jacobs (bass guitar, backing vocals) is considered by many as one of the finest players around and is also a member of legendary Canadian rockers Streetheart and a past member of the Powder Blues Band and the Rankin Family. Gerry Atwell (keyboards) is a fixture in Winnipeg and is a member of several bands including the Ministers of Cool and Eagle and Hawk. Finally, Steve Martens (drums) is a noted session player who also plays with Don Amero.
James Cohen was born and raised in Winnipeg and developed an early love for music while listening to his older brother playing his collection of classic rock albums. He clearly remembers jumping up and down and playing air guitar to “Smoke On The Water” at a young age! His parents signed him up for guitar lessons at age 11 and the rest fell into place. After playing in a high school garage band James later attended the prestigious Guitar Institute of Technology in Hollywood, California where he honed his playing and songwriting skills.
James’ first demo was recorded in Los Angeles with former King Kobra lead singer Mark Free on vocal duties. He initially received some major label interest but more material was requested. After moving back home, he followed up with an offering of rootsy Canadian rock under the name of “The Find” with some local Winnipeg musicians. A few years later he released “A Place To Run” which featured a number of Winnipeg’s music veterans including Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve of Streetheart/Loverboy fame on bass guitar.
“Here In Real Life” was released in 2008 and was recorded at Wonder Dog Studios with Rod Hussey playing (bass guitar)and producing and Lloyd Peterson providing creative input. James went on to play with the “Rod Hussey Revue” for a couple of years before heading back into the studio in 2010 to record a number of new songs which ultimately resulted in the band joining SoccerMom Records. The late great B.J.Garrison also played guitar on the Prairie Roots Rockers’ debut album and he remains sorely missed by all who knew him.
In 2019 the Prairie Roots Rockers family lost two members as longtime and legendary Canadian radio tracker Bobby Gale was killed in a tragic highway accident in eastern Ontario on April 13th. Bobby was directly responsible for getting “So Long Sweet Deception” wide radio airplay in 2011 – 2012 resulting in a minor hit for the band across Canada.
On November 23rd, band keyboardist and vocalist Gerry Atwell passed away from a massive heart attack and left a huge hole in the Winnipeg music community. Gerry was a Juno Award winner, community leader and musical mentor to many and will be missed and remembered forever by all who knew him and crossed paths. His wit, humor and incredible insights into human nature were a constant companion for those who were fortunate enough to be in his company.
The initial working relationship James had with Lloyd Peterson in 2008 and then in 2010 ultimately led to the creation of the current band, the Prairie Roots Rockers and he feels very fortunate to be playing with such a great group of musicians and individuals.