The Absolute Sound
We most recently heard from veteran Canada-by-way-of-St. Louis bluesman Jim Byrnes via a terrific performance on a Mississippi Sheiks tribute steered by his producer, Steve Dawson. On his new "Everywhere West" with Dawson again behind the board, and abetted by a mostly acoustic ensemble augmented by a potent horn section and Daniel Lapp's personable fiddling, Byrnes works what amounts to a blues variant on Springsteen's Seeger Sessions project, substituting tunes by the Sheiks, Lowell Fulsom, Jimmy Reed, Louis Jordan, and Robert Johnson, along with his own originals, for the Seeger songbook, and framing these in arrangements hearkening back to the small R&B combos of the post WWII period. Byrnes, with his gravely voice and economical blues guitar, eats it up, singing with warmth and conviction, and sounding right at home, whether moaning the deep, grinding Fulsom Blues "Black Nights" or affecting a Clapton-like sanguinity on Dawson's easygoing, country-inflected shuffle, "Walk On." As producer, Dawson gets full, immediate sound, achieving both intimacy and grandeur in meshing Byrnes and band into one rousing unit.