The Georgia Straight
Only a year after releasing My Walking Stick—the sharpest, most swinging album of his long career—Jim Byrnes almost tops himself with Everywhere West, an even more comprehensive tour of North America’s musical map.
The actor-singer-guitarist hits many blues hot spots, accompanied by versatile guitar wiz and producer Steve Dawson (who juggles six instruments on “Walk On”) and a back end that offers up solid but spare propulsion from bassist Keith Lowe and drummer Geoff Hicks. There’s an emphasis on the routes from Mississippi and New Orleans up to Chicago and out to California, by way of Robert Johnson, Jimmy Reed, and Lowell Fulson, with a nod to jump-jazzer Louis Jordan, whose “You Can’t Get That Stuff No More” provides the record’s central theme.
That credo also motivates lovingly recorded side trips to the Ozarks and Appalachia, with white-gospel tunes like “Yield Not to Temptation” and “He Was a Friend of Mine”. Stylistic connections are smoothly clarified by contributing guest Daniel Lapp, who saunters between fiddle, banjo, and gutbucket trumpet. But it’s Byrnes himself who levels the vertiginous topography with his easygoing authority, so evident on “Me and Piney Brown”, the intimate storytelling number that closes the journey, and “Hot as a Pistol”, the opening original he insists is “just as cool as homemade sin”.