The back cover of "My walking Stick" shows versatile country-blues singer/guitarist Jim Byrnes having a leisurely cup of coffee while sitting in a diner booth looking the very personification of the term "Old Pro"; this being his eighth album since 1981, Byrnes can make an honest claim to the description. Working out of Canada for several decades, Byrnes' work as a TV actor ("Wiseguy") or voiceover artist ("Highlander") may be more familiar to some than his music; if that's the case it's time to catch up.
Byrnes' voice and soulful delivery lie somewhere between Doc Watson and Louis Prima with a little Lord Buckley tossed in for flavor. Right off the bat his acoustic slide work on his original, "Ol Rattler," shows him to be one heck of a guitar player too. So it is a bit of a mystery as to why out of the album's 13 cuts he only picks up his ax for that one and the title cut. But other than the question of how a little interplay between them would sound, there's no mystery about why Byrnes turned to multi-instrumentalist Steve Dawson; his work on various fretted and non-fretted instruments - including electric slide, tricone and baritone guitars - doesn't leave a bit of slack. With organist Chris Gestrin and fiddler Jesse Zubot he fleshes out "Three Shots" reworking of the "Stagger Lee" saga, provides spot on pedal steel for a snaky take on the Conway Twitty hit "Lonely Blue Boy"; and slide for Henry Glover's classic "Drown In My Own Tears."
Byrnes music draws on the sweet soul music and country blues he absorbed during a youth spent haunting the blues and r&b clubs of his native St. Louis, Mo.; on Walking Stick he puts them to optimum use.
Standout Tracks: "Ol' Rattler"; "Lonely Blue Boy" RICK ALLEN