Whew! Thank God Jim Byrnes issued St. Louis Times so we Americans can get a leg up on all the great musics coming from those goddam over-talented Canadian bastards up there above Niagara Falls 'n such. Yep, good ol' true-blue St. Louis-raised Byrnes is strutting his stuff like a rooster in the hen yard (and, heh!, the CD was recorded in The Henhouse studios in Nashville and, uh-oh!, British Columbia), as full of gruff stomp, downhome holler, uppity sass-talkin', and good ol' piss and vinegar as he's ever been—more so, actually, as the bad boy's had 40 years to hone up his musical temperament and shows no signs of slowin' down. Oops! Waitaminnit…I'm just now being told Jim lives in Vancouver???

Well, heck, that's probably a conspiracy theory started by Alex Jones 'r sumthin, but I'll do my homework, check it out, and get back to y'all. Meanwhile, St. Louis Times is as top shelf and solid as anything the guy has so far done, and it was produced, recorded, and mixed to a honed luster by…oh hell, that Canuck wunderkind Steve Dawson, who also plays his usual killer guitar licks and co-writes with Big Jim. On Old Dog, New Tricks, Byrnes comes off like Jesse Winchester who's…whoops, another Yank gone North! What the hell's goin' on here? And, whoa, the CDs jam-packed with the cream of the crop of…oh no!, some of Canada's finest roots musos. Great day in the morning, I knew I got up on the wrong side of the bed when that alarm clock went off.

On Miss Me, the disc's Wilson-era Mississippi delta atmosphere's taken up another notch in a duet with the winsome but gutsy Colleen Rennison, soulful belter and actress who never takes no for an answer and, after the idiots at the Circle in the Square Theater School in NYC told her her voice was too low for song and film, told 'em to go jump and moved back to—hey, am I reading this right??—Vancouver. Yeesh. Is it too late to go back to bed? But John Hammond's here too, and he's a N'Yawkin' Amurrican, by God! Whew! Saved by the bell, or, in John's case: harp ('n a bit o that good ol' slide geetar).

Regardless, every cut in St. Louis Times, a celebration of that city's 250 years of existence, is a clear-cut winner, from the bawdy The Duck's Yas Yas Yas to the newbie old-time Old Dog, New Tricks to Chuck Berry's Nadine to Albert King and his classic I Get Evil. I mean, when it comes to musics with all kinds of snarky coolness, sneerings at hometown jiggery-pokery, righteously pavement-level indignation with blackguards and two-legged snakes, you can't say 'quality' unless you say 'Jim Byrnes' in the very next breath. And then to hear it brought off with the aplomb and mastery of a tarnished statesman 'n whiskey joint philosopher? Hoooo-eeee, but that's what I call my kinda music, Jeeter!

But, lawd a'mighty, would someone please inform Reverend Keith A. Gordon of About.com that Byrnes is not, as the good Rev claims, a Canuck "blues and roots legend" but a Yank? Jim may have uprooted and transmigrated in the 70s, but the gent was born right damn here in Unclesamland, dang it all, for whatever that may mean any more (not much, I hafta admit), and if'n that music-crit preacherman Gordon cain't git his priorities and origins straight, then I think…that maybe…um…aw shucks, who'm I foolin'? I'm looking into moving up North myself. These 'Nadians are beating the pants off us lately when it comes to this sort of stuff and a whole lot of everything else too. Maybe they're paying us back from trying to invade 'em ('n gettin' our asses kicked each time) in 1775 and then again in 1812 and then almost again in the 20s and 30s (look up War Plan Red if'n ya thinks I'm shittin' yez and if you want want your U.S. imperialist blood to run a little colder than it usually does). Yep, I think maybe they're colonizing us and doin' it right. Now, if the place just weren't so goddamned cold most of the year……