Let's say you haven't a clue who Jim Byrnes is. Well, Bertram, all you need do is glance at the back liner of Everywhere West to note Steve Dawson as producer and understand you're in for a good time and some serious blues no matter what. Thus you'd then have no excuse to ignore either the CD or Byrnes in this fourth collaboration with the impressive Dawson, who, by the way, also brought together the unbelievably righteous Mississippi Sheiks Tribute Concert DVD and CD (here and here, and miss 'em not)…of course with Byrnes included.
Big ol' grizzled Jim is from the whiskey-with-a-side-shot-of-gin school of vocals (and set up a boilermaker for a follower, bartender), even to the point of a knock-out Joe Cocker-esque version of Yield not to Temptation, my favorite in a diamond mine of great cuts—in fact, I can barely control a feverish brain at the thought of Byrnes and Cocker ever doing a duet. Yow! Regardless, Byrnes notes that "deep down, blues is an acceptance of life" and amen to that, brother, so he pours heart, soul, and spine into his work, fleshing out the underside of experience to a new incarnation while managing to get in a grin and a smile here and there (Bootlegger's Blues) not to mention a high-kickin' barn stomp (No Mail Blues) and, good lord, more besides.
Naturally, since Dawson also mixed and co-engineered the disc, Everywhere West is smoky and steamy while masterfully captured, lots of darkness wrapping around late Fall sunbeams heading south. Then there's Steve's killer electric licks climbing atop Byrnes' strums and churning vocals, the two combining for a convocation of angels and demons trading places in a carnal night on the town. No matter how you slice it, from a soulful Hot as a Pistol to the Dixie-esque From Four Until Late and beyond, Jim Byrnes knows how to handle the spectrum because he damn well understands that you "take all the bullshit that's been piling up, and you channel it through your guitar and voice". Well, this guy doesn't just live it all, he also provides the copious annotations.