A recent triumvirate of once-in-a-lifetime events occurred that led to the development of the latest release from Jim Byrnes. First, 2014 marked the 250TH anniversary of the founding of the city of St. Louis, which just happens to be where Jim spent his childhood. It also marks the Centennial anniversary of the publishing of perhaps the most well-known tune from the pen of W. C. Handy, “St. Louis Blues.” Lastly, this year marks the tenth anniversary of Jim’s musical partnership with guitarist extraordinaire Steve Dawson. Their collaborations have resulted in six albums, including this one, “St. Louis Times,” which serves as one of Jim’s most personal albums. He not only has taken songs identified with the Gateway city or its most famous citizens, but also includes four original works from Jim and Steve, whose vintage guitar style shines throughout.
Jim’s vocals still go down as smoothly as your favorite bourbon as you listen to this history lesson in the blues. Also, some of the planet’s best sidemen join in for the occasion, making this truly a fun listen. Jim spins a spoken-word tale of the St. Louis of his youth in “The Journey Home.” And, “Cake Alley” may have cheap cakes, but the hoodlums that inhabit “Blair Avenue on down to 15TH Street” may be a bit more than you bargain for! This one features John Hammond, Jr. on National slide guitar, and a sweet Dixieland-style horn section.
Jim shows a soulful side also, on the somber, churchy, “I Need A Change,” one of the original compositions penned by Jim and Steve. And, the playful Fontella Bass chestnut, “You’ll Miss Me (When I’m Gone), has Jim in a duet with No Sinner’s Colleen Rennison that captures the spirit of the “quarrelsome” lovers.
We had two favorites, too. We’ve always loved native son Chuck Berry’s storied “Nadine” in her “coffee-colored Cadillac,” and Jim’s take is spot-on while Steve’s pedal steel gives it a special touch. And, the hilarious ” The Duck’s Yas YasYas” has Jim in another duet setting, this time with John Hammond, Jr., who also adds harp in this slice of vintage blues.
With “St. Louis Times,” Jim Byrnes offers a unique look at the musical history of one of the most important cities in blues. And, he does it in his own inimitable, very personal style, making this one his best set to date!