Music Industry News Network
Black Hen Music announces a November 16 release date for Everywhere West, the new CD from multi Juno Award-winning blues and roots musician Jim Byrnes, distributed nationally by Burnside Distribution.
Everywhere West is the fourth collaboration between Byrnes and Black Hen Music label president, musician and producer Steve Dawson, and showcases Jim’s bluesiest sound in many years. The follow-up to his 2008 critically-acclaimed release, My Walking Stick, Everywhere West includes raw and stripped-down takes on classic songs, as well as originals penned by Jim, himself.
It’s the kind of music that Jim Byrnes grew up hearing in his adolescence. Owner of a dual citizenship, Jim Byrnes has been based in Vancouver for many years, but was originally born and raised in St. Louis and grew up surrounded by music on the north side of the city. Chuck Berry, Ike and Tina Turner, Ray Charles and Muddy Waters played nearby and were major influences. Jim’s parents even lived for a time in the same apartment building as Chuck Berry’s legendary piano player, Johnnie Johnson.
In his liner notes for the new CD, Byrnes recounts tales of him and his buddy driving over to East St. Louis in the mid ‘60s to hear people like Jimmy Reed, whose classic “Take Out Some Insurance On Me,” Byrnes covers on Everywhere West, as well as such other blues giants as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Albert King and Little Milton. “And if you cared to pay attention, this music was in the air, everywhere,” he writes. “Down at the end of the dial, Spider Burks, Dave and Jerome Dixon, Robert BQ, Gabriel and Lou ‘Fatha’ Thimes kept the best in blues, rhythm and blues and jazz in our hearts and minds.
“Once we discovered this treasure, we dug deeper and found incredible musical history right under our noses. I had the good fortune to share the stage with men like Furry Lewis and Henry Townsend, whose recording careers reached back into the 1920s. This CD is dedicated to all those who have gone before. To those who taught me to take it like you find it or leave like it is.”
Byrnes salutes those influences with an amazing collection of songs that demonstrate the depth and breadth of his own soul, whether giving a ringing take of the Mississippi Sheiks chestnut, “Bootlegger’s Blues,” or wailing his way through a stripped down banjo driven version of Bobby Bland’s “Yield Not to Temptation,” Byrnes inhabits each every syllable and corner of this music. Testifying with poise and authority, he adds weight and depth to a Dave Van Ronk-inspired take of “He Was a Friend of Mine,” and turns the Robert Johnson classic, “From Four Until Late” - courtesy of an up tempo arrangement by Steve Dawson complete with horns - into a romp that would make fans of The Band and The Allman Brothers Band proud. Other standout covers includes Lowell Fulson’s “Black Nights” and Louis Jordan’s “You Can’t Get That Stuff No More.”
Fitting in with these covers like the fingers of a well-worn glove are originals written by Byrnes and Steve Dawson, highlighted by the bookend opening track of, “Hot As a Pistol,” which sets blistering pace for what is to follow; and the album’s closer, “Me and Piney Brown,” an “autobiographical dream tune” that evokes an imaginary journey to Kansas City in 1938, but that could just as easily parallel one of Jim’s trips rolling with his buddies back in that 1963 Plymouth, carousing around in places they shouldn’t have been in East St. Louis.
Everywhere West was recorded live off the floor with minimal overdubs and features Jim’s band of the last six years: Steve Dawson on guitars, Keith Lowe on bass, and Geoff Hicks on drums. Stellar support comes from Chris Gestrin on keyboards, Keith Bennett on harmonica, Jeanne Tolmie on backing vocals and the amazing Daniel Lapp on fiddle and trumpet.
Growing up, in addition to being a musician, acting always seemed to strike a chord, ever since Jim did Shakespeare in the Park in St. Louis when he was 15. He went on to study acting at Boston University and St. Louis University. Jim Byrnes lost both his legs many years ago, when he was hit from behind by a car while helping push a stalled truck on a highway. After recuperating, he pursued work as a musician, which also led to the acting career for which he had once trained.
If his face looks familiar, it’s because Jim Byrnes is also a busy actor, perhaps best known for playing “Lifeguard,” the communications expert and link to the “organization” on the CBS-TV series, Wiseguy (1987-1990), and as Joe Dawson, one of the “Watchers” tracking the immortals on Highlander (syndicated, from 1993-98). He continues to do both film and TV work, including a recurring role on Sanctuary, the SyFy Channel original series, as well as voiceovers for animated film and TV. Over the years, he’s won and been nominated for several acting awards.
Jim Byrnes regularly plays over 100 dates a year, including major folk and jazz festivals in North America and Europe. He’ll support the release of Everywhere West with continuing tours of clubs, festivals and showcase venues around the world. Jim is managed by Kathy Campbell (www.pooka.ca).