Jim Byrnes – Everywhere West

January 01, 1970




Jim Byrnes doesn’t just sing the blues. He emulates them. A
dedicated diehard, he claims to have been a devotee since his mid-teens, when
he and a pal would make regular trips to a seedy club on the opposite side of
the city to catch visiting Bluesmen like Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters, Albert
King and a host of others that made his hometown of St. Louis a regular
stomping ground. 


The Vietnam War found Byrnes escaping to Canada and
undertaking an acting career, but in recent years, the blues has been his muse
and he’s released several albums reflecting his infatuation with the form. This
latest effort finds veteran producer Steve Dawson at the helm as he plows
through a disparate array of blues variations, from the gritty sway of “Hot as
a Pistol” and the brassy flourish of “Black Nights” to the jaunty “Walk On” and
a plucky “Bootlegger’s Blues.” In fact, it’s that versatility that sets Everywhere West apart, specifically
Byrnes’ ability to mine so many different shades of blues from such a singular
genre. His take on Robert Johnson’s oft-reprised “From Four Until Late” turns
the tune into an upbeat vamp, complete with Dixie-style horns and a celebratory
shout-out that would befit a Vaudeville stage show. Likewise, his version of
the reflective “He Was a Friend of Mine,” famously reworked by the Byrds in the
wake of JFK’s assassination, reverts back to the original intent under the
weight of Byrnes’ weary rendition, and, as a result, mines the remorse all the
more effectively. Likewise, when he applies a sassy attitude to “Take Out Some
Insurance On Me” and “You Can’t Get That Stuff No More,” a knowing wink and nod
help assert authenticity.


Ultimately, it’s the final offering, Byrnes’ reflective “Me
and Piney Brown,” that gives his musical connection a context and puts his
inspiration into perspective. Just as it sharpens the focus it confirms his


a Friend of Mine,” “Walk On,” “From Four Until Late” LEE ZIMMERMAN

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