Long-time Vancouver bluesman and music-scene kingpin Jim Byrnes actually got his start in the American musical heartland. As a boy -- and he tells us all this in the CD's liner notes -- he would make pilgrimages to St. Louis to see his blues champions: Jimmy Reed, Howling Wolf, BB King, and the list goes on, like a roll call in musicians' heaven.
Now, on his latest album, Byrnes goes on another pilgrimage, paying tribute to those days and songs in Everywhere West.
On this dozen tunes, some slow electric blues and some jaunty country bluegrass, Byrnes brings in a terrific band and goes through the songs of his youth, as well as a couple of his own and of his producer Steve Dawson's.
He gets things off to a warm start with the bluesman braggadocio of Hot as a Pistol -- and he is. Here we have horn-backed, slow electric blues with gritty guitar fills and a wild Hammond organ solo. Then there's the acoustic-based gospel of Yield Not to Temptation, with great female background vocals, and the dobro-led, country bluegrass of the traditional Bootlegger's Blues.
We get Lowell Fulsom's big, thumping, slow blues in Black Nights, and the high-stepping organ and slide guitar workout of Robert Johnson's From Four Until Late. The sly sexuality of Jimmy Reed's Take Out Some Insurance is great fun, and Byrnes' rendition of the traditional He Was a Friend of Mine, with excellent harmony vocals from Jeanne Tolmie, is another high point in an album of great songs.