The Blues PowR Blog
Jim Byrnes may not be a name with which many blues fans are familiar, but with his new release Everywhere West (Black Hen Music), Byrnes offers a pretty convincing argument that perhaps it should be.
From the first Robert Johnson-like notes of the ZZ Top-sounding opener "Hot as a Pistol," powered by some zesty horns and organ, you realize that this album has the potential to be something quite special. I'm happy to say that Byrnes doesn't disappoint, with his mature, coarse voice giving much credibility to the blues he's singing and an interesting assortment of instruments - including a marxophone, wurlitzer, lap slide, mandolin, banjo, dobro, mandotar, mellotron, fiddle and a fine collection of horns on top of the more common guitar, slide, piano/organ, harmonica and drums - helping to make Everywhere West a uniquely versatile and immensely enjoyable listen.
While its originals are undoubtedly one of the album's strengths (in addition to the opening track, Byrnes also penned the Jeff Healey-like closer "Me and Piney Brown," complete with jazzy piano, and the slow and bluesy "Storm Warning"), Byrnes also offers some surprisingly good covers on a variety of blues and traditional tunes, sounding just as good on his banjo-laced, Joe Cocker-ish interpretation of the soulful classic "Yield Not to Temptation" - including a rather nice slide guitar solo from Steve Dawson, who also produced the album - as on the country blues of the Mississippi Sheiks' "Bootlegger's Blues" that follows. Indeed, that country sound is one that works particularly well for Byrnes, as demonstrated on such other tunes as the horn-laden down-home blues of Lowell Fulson's "Black Nights," a "No Mail Blues" that features Daniel Lapp providing some nice fiddle and trumpet, and the traditional "He Was a Friend of Mine."
Also included is a bouncy, New Orleans-style take on Robert Johnson's "From Four Until Late," while the quiet Dawson tune "Walk On" sounds like something Randy Newman could easily have penned for a Pixar film soundtrack. Byrnes also hits upon such classics as Jimmy Reed's terrific "Take Out Some Insurance on Me" and Louis Jordan's rollicking shuffle "You Can't Get That Stuff No More," proving that - when it comes to good blues - you can still get this stuff, with Everywhere West being as good as place to look for it as any.