Jim Byrnes has found a modus operandi that continues to pay large dividends for him: songs he remembers from his formative years in St. Louis MO, newly written originals and new interpretations of solid classics. His ‘warm & weathered’ singing style has been recognized with many awards, including several Maple Blues Awards and the key really is his voice, it allows him to make almost any song his own. Steve Dawson’s superlative production and the topflight accompanists combine to make any new Byrnes release an event. Those accompanists this time include: Dawson on guitars, Chris Gestrin on keys, Geoff Hicks, drums, Jeremy Holmes, bass, and a horn section, Malcolm Aiken, Jerry Cook and Dominic Conway. A gospel-styled song, “Step By Step” opens, with The Sojourners in full flight and Jerry Cook takes a powerful sax break. The Band’s “The Shape I’m In” gets a masterfull blues arrangement, with more Sojourners and Steve Marriner guesting on harp. The Bobby Bland hit “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City” gets an acoustic, countryish treatment, with Dawson on Weissenborn plus The Sojourners and the horns – very different, and very enjoyable. Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” may seem an odd choice but not in Byrnes’ hands. One of Byrnes’ own (with Dawson) is “Deep Blue Sea”, a slab of 50’s R&B with some fine doowop vocals from The Sojourners. Willie Dixon’s “Weak Brain, Narrow Mind” gets a new, acoustic treatment but with a twist: there is only one microphone, about thirty feet away from the band – something a little different and worth a try, it’s just Dawson & Marriner with him. Elmore James’ “Something Inside Me” gets a slow blues workout that is worth the price of the album alone, Dawson roars on slide and Marriner rips off some incredible harp. A Dawson original, “Anywhere The Wind Blows”, is a jaunty little acoustic song with quite lovely Piedmont-style harmonica from Marriner. Dawson plays his Weissenborn on this attractive rambling song. “Out Of Left Field” is a Percy Sledge song that Byrnes makes his own, with some superb slide from Dawson and superb harmony vocals from The Sojourners. Byrne saves the title song for last, his other original, again written with Dawson. Those long hot summer days are southern days. Tom toms, organ and acoustic guitars provide an atmospheric background to a childhood reminiscence, a masterpiece of singing. Do whatever it takes to add this to your collection, his web site is www.jimbyrnes.org.

John's Blues Pick November 2017 - Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters
November 2017 - Sue Foley