Blues music with a kick, performed by a man who’s shoes are scuffed and worn
A music veteran of 40 years Canadian resident, but St. Louis-born Jim Byrnes cross pollinates an exciting selection of genres on this his umpteenth album.
If a man ever had a tale to tell then it is Byrnes, a man who has for forty years both made music and for a great deal of that period worked as a film / TV actor of no little repute. Working up a head of steam from the outset he reminds me of bluesman John Hammond. Such is the way he digs deep into the world of black man’s blues, and sounds more like a brother than a poor cousin to a people that have made the music their own. Something he duly underlines on the terrific cuts ‘Ol’ Rattler’ and Mel Tillis ‘Walk On Boy’ prior to him dropping into the delightful 1950’s Sam Cooke-like soul groove of ‘Looking For Love’.
Covers include a sensitive version of Robbie Robertson’s (The Band) ‘Ophelia’, Canadian gal Oh Susanna’s ‘Three Shots’ that sees him gravitate to the dark and moody side of the idiom. Byrnes, it seems is able at the drop of the hat to slip from one style to another, and on every occasions nail them like few acts performing today.
Much credit must go out to producer Steve Dawson (weissenborn guitar, percussion, baritone/ electric slide / pedal steel/acoustic/ national guitar, banjo etc), Keith Lowe (double bass), Steven Hodges (drums, percussion), Jesse Zubot (violin, viola) and Chris Gestrin (keyboard) plus the vocal assists of the fabulous Sojourners as Byrnes comes up with an album as strong as it is diverse. Non of the material more so than his aforementioned cover of ‘Ophelia’, the blue and funky ‘Lonely Boy Blue (Danny’s Song) or Irving Berlin’s ‘My Walking Stick’ — a track that most certainly reminds me of John Hammond when he had Tom Waits’ band record with him.
Closing the album Byrnes gives a taste of the bayou on ‘One Life (Creole Song)’ — one of a handful of tracks featuring vocalist Jeanne Tolmie it possesses a sombre, eerie almost feel. If you are not familiar with the music of Byrnes I think it is time you did something about it — like yesterday.