After 40 years away, Jim Byrnes is finally coming home. Although the bluesman has called Vancouver home since the mid-seventies, his birthplace is St. Louis. His latest pays tribute to that city with his own compositions as well as covers commemorating the sounds he grew up with, including Albert King, Chuck Berry, W.C. Handy, James "Stump" Johnson, and Little Milton.
Even though some of the artists he covers are not St. Louis natives, they're all somehow connected to the city. St. Louis native Chuck Berry gets his tribute from Byrnes on 'Nadine.' byrnes takes his version down a few notches from Berry's sounding like Delbert McClinton loping through a Texas roadhouse pursued by Dawson's pedal steel. Stump Johnson's 'The Duck's Yas Yas Yas' is pure hokum from another St.Louis native. Byrnes picks up the pace quite a bit, adding a Dixieland feel to the bawdy tune, exhorting listeners to wiggle in time to the music.
"If you can't shake your shoulders, shake your yas yas yas." If you're going to pay tribute to St. Louis, you have to include W.C. Handy's 'St.Louis Blues.' Byrnes slows it down a bit and western swings it with the help of Dawson's steel over Byrnes' Louis Prima vocal impersonation.
Lonnie Johnson's 'Another Night To Cry' gets a makeover from Johnsons' jazzy, breezy delivery to a dirty, low down, late night crawl through the alley. Milton gets his moment with Byrnes covering 'That Will Never Do.' It's about the same tempo, but slicked up with some greasy slide from producer/guitarist Steve Dawson.
Byrnes pays tribute to Albert King with his cover of King's '62 hit, 'I Get Evil,' based on the 1940 Tampa Red tune 'Don't Lie To Me.' Byrnes' version is slower, more low down, and swampier than King's samba beat original, reinforced with bright, stinging licks. Unfortunately for his U.S. fans, Byrnes isn't coming back physically, so this is all we get. It'll do for now, but if this is any indication what he's still capable of, we'll all want more, sooner and closer to home.