Erasing Clouds Magazine
For every boy band that flares briefly into the night sky then dies equally quickly, there are guys like Jim Byrnes out there, peddling their craft, making music that has more integrity, soul, meaning and passion than anything a shipload of Westlifes could muster in half a minute. And, sad to say, bands like Westlife get the fame and the money for pumping out tons of pap while guys like Byrnes press on, earning plaudits but usually not great amounts of money. And that's a darn shame, because the world needs albums like Fresh Horses - if only to remind us that there is room for blues in the great popular music encyclopaedia. Fresh Horses, recorded live - and it shows, in the spacious, closed-mike production - is 12 tracks of smouldering, heartfelt, immaculate blues-soul, mainly written or co-written by Jim, excepting Dylan's "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" and "For The Turnstyles" by Neil Young. Byrnes, who handles lead vocals - sounding like Beefheart, Waits and any other grizzled baritone America has thrown up over the past coupla decades - and guitar, has been in the business since the age of five, when he learned the piano while growing up in St Louis, Missouri. A musical education that has included him playing with the likes of Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Albert Collins and Robert Cray, has given him the history - and the chops - to do his thing. Fresh Horses takes all those influences and adds Byrnes' own identity, of a grey-beard, grizzled bluesman who has got a lot to say.