Music City Blues Society - My Walking Stick
Upon looking at the cover photo for "My Walking Stick," Jim Byrnes' latest release on Black Hen Records, one might say "this guy sure looks familiar." That's because he has done quite a bit of acting, portraying one of the "Watchers" on the "Highlander" TV series, and as the "Lifeguard" opposite Ken Wahl on CBS-TV's "Wiseguy" from 1987-1990. But, he also has an impressive musical background.
Born in St. Louis, Jim grew up listening to a lot of that city's blues and R & B, even living for a time in the same apartment building as pianist Johnnie Johnson. By age thirteen he'd learned piano and guitar, and has followed his passion for music ever since. On "My Walking Stick,' he skillfully spins thirteen tales of midnight ramblers, loners, love lost and found, lost souls, and redemption.
Joining Jim on this set are Vancouver gospel trio The Sojourners, and their sweet harmonies are the perfect foil for Jim's vocals. They are in especially fine form on "What Are They Doing In Heaven Today" and "I Want My Crown," the latter featuring some tasty slide and organ work.
Jim shows his reverence for classic R & B with two fine covers of "Drown In My Own Tears" and "Lookin' For A Love." The Band's "Ophelia" is given a slowed-down, country-blues treatment, while "Lonely Blue Boy (Danny's Song) comes across as excellent Fifties doo-wop, with The Sojourners again holding down the backing vocals. The title cut is a "tribute" of sorts to the one thing Jim never leaves home without, due to a tragic highway accident that caused him to lose both his legs. It's done with a distinct "Spanish" feel.
We had two favorites, too. An updated look at the story of John Henry is represented with "Walk On," featuring cool "chain gang" percussion. "Three Shots" revisits ole Stagger Lee and Billy, and the misfortunes that begin after a mysterious "ace fell out of Billy's sleeve!"
Jim Byrnes has won numerous Juno Awards, the Canadian version of a Grammy, after his move north several years ago. With a voice that's as comfortable as your favorite slippers and guitar chops that complete the package, "My Walking Stick" is quite an enjoyable listen!!! Until next time....Sheryl and Don Crow.