Baltimore Blues Society
They grow up so quickly nowadays. Hard to believe, but St. Louis- home of the Arc, Gerber sandwich, and St. Louis Blues (song as well as slap-shot varieties)--is already turning 250 this year. To celebrate, now-Canadian Jim Byrnes sings up this big blue birthday gift of an album honoring his birthplace. St. Louis Times gathers its mementos in the form of songs dedicated to the city (like ye olde "Cake Alley," a seedy underbelly expose) as well as from its own progeny, both adopted (Albert King, Little Milton, etc...) and native songs (Chuck Berry; Byrnes, who brings four originals) in a just world, Byrnes would be a household name down in the States, acknowledged and appreciated for the wonderfully lived-in, crusty croon of his. Naturally burred and micked from 65 years of hard use makes it ideal for chewing on sepia-toned verses about liars or having to scrape through the day. Enter Steve Dawson. Up to his usual spectacular self, the producer/player texturizes environments as magically as did "Cripple Creek"-era John Simon, his own steely National and pedal steel further rusticating the rootsy funkiness of sousaphones and cupped trumpets, organ skids, and John Hammond's guest harmonica squeaking into the uppermost registers. So when Berry's "Nadine" gets remedied of her usual duckwalk in exchange for a mod honky-tonk strut, it doesn't seem nearly as radical as when the American fossil "St. Louis Blues" gets reborn as a youthful klezmer tango right there in the middle of Basin Street. For the sixth time now, the Byrnes-Dawson collaboration is substantially far greater than the already impressive sum of their considerable parts.