It says more about the way our minds work than anything else perhaps, but the title of this record immediately had MV humming “you got your hair combed back, and your sunglasses on, baby”. Long, hot summer days, you see, will always mean Don Henley’s “Boys Of Summer” to us, but we digress and thankfully Jim Byrnes had no truck with such a thing.
And no wonder, given that for 50 years the Canadian bluesman has been perfecting his art and receiving awards all over the place.
His last one, 2014’s “St Louis”, was a celebration of the music of that city, “….Days” meanwhile is a celebration of music full stop.
Of the 12 songs here, only three are originals and one of these is penned by Steve Dawson, his long-time collaborator.
Do not, however make the mistake of thinking that anyone involved is out of ideas, because these are interpretations. Take the second track, “The Shape I’m In”, it is more to do with the soulful blues of the Jersey shore than anything that The Band did, while “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City” owes more to Bobby Bland than Whitesnake, but has an old-time shuffle that neither of them found.
The musicianship here is quite superb, not least because Dawson is a wonderful guitarist, but the use of horns is just perfect. That much is clear from the opening strains of “Step By Step” and with Byrnes’ always brilliant vocals to the fore, it is a heady mix. Not for nothing has the man himself said that at the age of 69 he’s finally learnt the value of restraint.
As flexible as it is skilful, the collection takes in the outright soul of “There Is Something On Your Mind” and follows it up by finding a playful side to Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” – and let’s face it, that’s not an easy feat. Nonetheless with a cheeky delivery Byrnes’ manages to pull it off.
Perhaps the most stark of all of them though, is the dry as dust take on “Weak Brain, Narrow Mind” and if it sounds as though the microphone was a long way away when it was made then that’s because it was. 30 feet to be precise. The results are deliberately unsettling.
Of the others “99 And A Half Won’t Do” positively crackles with electricity and a sense of fun, and the way Dawson attacks Elmore James’ “Something Inside Of Me” is a pure joy, while “Out Of Left Field” is lifted from the norm by the loving way it is played.
The originals prove that if they had chosen to do an album full of them, it would have been superb. There is a laid-back effortless cool about the fabulously catchy “Deep Blue Sea” which wraps its longing up in a good old-fashioned tune. “Anywhere The Wind Blows” is a lesson in southern fried blues, while the title track, which rounds the record out, is deeply personal and evocative, “I can still see mother hanging our clothes out on the line” he says at one point, and it’s the little things, after all is said and done that you remember.
Such a line is absolutely right for a record like this too, because the genesis came from reminiscing. That said, “Long Hot Summer Days” is about more than looking to the past. It finds inspiration in history, yes, but it is the work of a man who even after 50 years, has plenty to offer the future.