Toronto Blues Society
Multiple JUNO & MBA winner Jim Byrnes has been mining his rich background to good effect. He grew up during a golden age of live music and radio in St. Louis in the fifties & sixties and he had open ears. He didn’t care about labels all he cared about was good songs and his wide-ranging taste has already been on display on earlier discs. So a selection of songs by Buck Owens, Ray Price, Hank Williams & Marty Robbins should not be too much of a surprise, nor should we be surprised at how well he performs them, it’s in his DNA. Steve Dawson is of course the producer and he brings along his usual array of stringed instruments. We do get some unusual choices given the context, however, in Gordon Lightfoot’s “Ribbon of Darkness”, Nick Lowe’s “Sentimental Man” and Tom Waits’ “House Where Nobody Lives”. Little Willie John’s “Big Blue Diamonds” was already a country song when he recorded it in 1962. No matter. Part of the reason these choices all work is the relative lack of a pedal steel guitar, which was a dominant instrument in many of the originals, although, perversely, Dawson plays it on “Ribbon of Darkness”. Mike Shanyshyn’s fiddle is a treat and Colleen Rennison’s duet vocal on “Wild Mountain Berries” another one. Old friends the Sojourners return as well, for the Stanley Brothers’ gospel song “Harbour of Love”. Byrnes says he could do a six CD box full of these tunes, this one will do nicely until he does that.