Long Hot Summer Days (2017)
St. Louis Times (2014)
I Hear The Wind in the Wires (2012)
Everywhere West (2010)
My Walking Stick (2009)
Byrnes was born in St. Louis, Missouri – that’s blues
country. He grew up on the city’s north side. One of the neighbourhood
bars had Ike and Tina Turner as the house band. As a teenager going
to music clubs, he and his buddy were often the only white people
in the place. “We never had any problems. We were too naïve,
and had too much respect for the music and culture – they
knew it, they could tell.”
thirteen, Jim was singing and playing blues guitar. His first professional
gig was in 1964. Over the years, he has had the great good fortune
to appear with a virtual who’s who of the blues. From Muddy
Waters and John Lee Hooker to Taj Mahal and Robert Cray, Jim has
been on the blues highway for 45 years.
Byrnes moved to Vancouver, BC in the mid-70s after years of drifting,
working odd jobs and playing music. In 1981 he put together a band
that became a staple of the local music scene. In 1986 the Jim Byrnes
Band played 300 nights.
Jim Byrnes’ fame as an actor has grown immeasurably from his
too-numerous-to-mention TV roles, highlights including television’s
Wiseguy and Highlander series, and his national variety show The
Jim Byrnes Show.
Jim has proven that a serious car accident in 1972 has done anything
but hinder him. Despite two swipes with death and some pretty hard
knocks, Byrnes has still managed to rack up an enviable string of
credits, both on and off-screen.
first love, however, is the blues. His evocative, smoky vocals are
found in a truth that doesn’t come overnight. In 1981 he released
‘Burnin’’, followed in 1987 with I’ve
Turned My Nights into Days and 1995’s Juno-Award
winning That River.
has produced four outstanding albums in six years since he hooked
up with Steve Dawson, one of North America’s most critically
acclaimed roots music producers. 2004’s Fresh Horses
and 2006’s gospel tinged Juno Award winning House
Of Refuge set standards that aren’t often equalled.
Walking Stick was the 2009 release ... a blood and guts,
behind your knees, love, life, death, and after life release from
the multi award winning Mr. Byrnes. Jim and Steve continued to explore
the gospel, blues, rockabilly, and country genres, and once again
pull it all together in an original and unique bluesy way.
A little more than a year later, the same team got together and
produced Everywhere West. A salute to Jim’s
origins and influences, the CD sprinkled three exciting new originals
in amongst tracks by seminal blues artists.
In 2012, Jim decided to record I Hear The Wind in the Wires,
an album of songs from the golden age of country music – many
of which he’s been listening to for all his life. This time
around, he turns back the hands of time to take his listeners into
the world of country music, but it’s not the kind of country
we’ve heard on the radio any time this century. This is surely
the most natural, satisfying and downright joyous album of Byrnes’
lengthy career. Steve Dawson is back in the saddle again as producer
and multi-instrumentalist (electric, acoustic, slide, pedal steel
and baritone guitar, banjo, ukelele). To hear these two men celebrate
the music of Buck Owens, Ray Price, Hank Williams, Marty Robbins
and other country music legends is a rare and exhilarating experience.
Jim Byrnes plays 150 dates a year in North America and Europe. He
will continue to bring his music to stages all over the world. Who
could ask for more than that?
Long Hot Summer Days (Released 2017)
Every now and then, if you’re lucky, you’ll hear a voice that changes the way you think about music. It’s that rare kind of voice that can take you out of yourself to a place where a song that you’ve heard a thousand times becomes brand new again. Jim Byrnes’ voice has that quality, and even though he’s been winning over audiences with his soulful vocals for more than fifty years now, he’s never sung like he does on Long Hot Summer Days, his newest album on Black Hen Music.
At age sixty-nine, Jim Byrnes has recorded a career milestone, which, given his history with numerous Juno Awards and Maple Blues Awards, among many other accolades, is saying a lot. But, if you listen just once through Long Hot Summer Days, it’s easy to be convinced that there simply isn’t anyone alive today who loves a good song more than Jim does. It’s an amazing thing to hear a performer who, well into the fifth decade of his career, the veteran of thousands of live performances and dozens of recording sessions, continues to approach creating a new album with the dedication and enthusiasm of a twenty year old.
Jim has collaborated on 7 album releases now with Steve Dawson, the award winning guitarist and producer. It’s a partnership that had its genesis in 2004 when Jim and Steve got together to record the critically acclaimed ‘Fresh Horses’. Since then, they have played countless shows and sessions together across Canada and around the world.
Long Hot Summer Days is an album that reflects everything that Byrnes looks for in a song. As he points out; “Most blues fans are on the lookout for the sound of a tasty blues guitar, but for me what makes or breaks a song is the singer.” As anyone who’s ever heard him before can attest, Jim’s always been an exceptional vocalist, but for this album he wanted to take his performances to another level. Byrnes explains, “All of the singers I’ve ever loved have known when to hold back. I’ve finally learned to work with restraint, and that if you don’t throw it all out at your audience, you can work with what you don’t reveal. And, sometimes what you can suggest without actually singing it overtly gets pretty interesting. I think with this record, I’ve finally learned to sound like myself.”
>With a love of music as vast as Jim’s, it’s not surprising that Long Hot Summer Days covers a lot of territory. From the spare and haunting rendition of Willie Dixon’s ‘Weak Brain, Narrow Mind’ captured to tape with one microphone 30 feet away, to the rich full band sound of ‘Ninety-Nine And A Half’, ‘Long Hot Summer Days’ is a master class of song interpretation.
When Steve and Jim began to choose songs, Jim kept circling back to things he first heard on the radio while driving around his native St. Louis during his high school days. On the top of his list was ‘Something On Your Mind,’ a soul hit by Bobby Marchan. ‘Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City’ recalls the relaxed, assured style of Bobby Bland, and Jim’s interpretation of ‘Out Of Left Field’ would do Percy Sledge proud. For blues purists, there is a riveting single-take version of Elmore James’ ‘Something Inside of Me’ that should put to rest any doubts that Steve Dawson is one of Canada’s greatest guitarists.
Two original songs co-written by Jim and Steve - the sultry Nina Simone-influenced title track, ‘Long Hot Summer Days’ and the delightful Van Morrison-style groove of ‘Deep Blue Sea’ - are rounded out by a Dawson original, the rollicking ‘Anywhere the Wind Blows’.
Understandably, there aren’t many musicians capable of rising to the demands set by the music chosen for ‘Long Hot Summer Days.’ So, it was a very special group that came together at The Warehouse Studio in Vancouver to record for a week last spring; Steve Dawson (guitars), Chris Gestrin (keyboards), Geoff Hicks (drums), Jeremy Holmes (bass), and a horn section containing some of Vancouver’s finest – Malcolm Aiken, Jerry Cook and Dominic Conway. Guest appearances by The Sojourners on harmony vocals and Monkeyjunk’s Steve Marriner on the harmonica, virtually guaranteed that a very special recording was in the works.
Steve Dawson has always been an innovative producer, and for this project he decided to record Sinatra-style with all of the musicians in the same room, facing each other without headphones on. This allowed the musicians to hear each other naturally and play at a lower volume. This made it possible to pull richer tones out of the instruments, giving the whole album a warm, vintage sound.
Warm and weathered. Soaring and bright. Long Hot Summer Days is a masterwork from one of Canada’s best-loved musical icons. Records like this don’t come around every day. Listen and be taken away.
VANCOUVER SUN REVIEW - November 2017
ive decades in the blues business, Jim Byrnes still sounds all fired up. If anything, his recorded output just keeps on improving as he and producer Steve Dawson find more ways to give this talented singer/guitarist a forum for his deeply soulful vocals. Inspired by the R&B he heard on the radio growing up in St. Louis, Byrnes puts a gloss of vintage class on everything from new tunes to old gems such as Robbie Robertson's The Shape I'm In or Eddy Floyd/Wilson Pickett/Steve Cropper hits such as Ninety Nine And A Half Won't Do. He can take something as late singer Jesse Winchester's Step By Step which opens the 12-song album - and make it a cut-to-the-bone shuffle carried on Dawson's wicked slide guitar and the backing vocals of the wonderful gospel trio The Sojourners. The list of backing players is a who's who of Canada's finest, as well as Byrnes' ridiculously good touring band. Here's hoping he gets to present this album with the full horn section sometime soon because they make There Is Something On Your mind something so special. Throughout it all, Byrnes brings a spectacular vocal variation to his singing, always suiting the song and giving the maximum emotion possible to every word. Vancouver Sun Album of the Week
St. Louis Times (Released 2014)
Jim Byrnes lives and breathes music. For nearly fifty years he's crooned, drawled, belted, hollered and sweet talked more songs into a microphone than most people ever get to hear in a single lifetime. He's vibrated the rafters of saloons, pool halls and dance floors from one end of the continent with more styles of music than you could shake a stick at. It doesn't matter whether it's (he's doing) low down blues, gospel, R&B, old time, swing, country or good old rock and roll – when Jim Byrnes sings, it's the real deal.
Even so, he's never recorded an album like this one – St. Louis Times – is Byrne's most personal record to date. Reminiscences of his childhood home of St. Louis are expressed through his original compositions as well as versions of songs he grew up with that were recorded by St. Louis musicians. By revisiting songs associated with Chuck Berry, Stump Johnson, Little Milton, Peetie Wheatstraw and more, Jim Byrnes takes us on an intimate musical journey through a world that has passed by just in time for the commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the founding of the city of St. Louis and the 100th anniversary of the song 'St. Louis Blues.'
St. Louis Times is the sixth album that Jim Byrnes and Steve Dawson have recorded together and its release coincides with the tenth anniversary of their partnership. With that in mind, Dawson gathered some of the best roots musicians in Canada together for a super session to record the basic tracks for 'St. Louis Times' on vintage equipment in a big old studio blessed with brilliant ambience and acoustics. As usual Dawson's signature string work rides shotgun through 'St. Louis Times' and has never sounded more right for Jim's songs, while Darryl Havers' innovative keyboard work and the rock solid rhythm session of Jeremy Holmes on bass and the tireless Geoff Hicks on drums gracefully support every track. Horns from a host of legendary Nashville players provide depth and texture on many of 'St. Louis Times' best songs.
Jim's old friend John Hammond passed through Vancouver while 'St. Louis Times' was being recorded, which provided the perfect opportunity for the two veterans to duck into the studio and cement a forty year friendship in song. Hammond trades verses with Byrnes on 'Ducks Yas Yas Yas', offers some tasty National Steel on 'Cake Alley' – an ode to one of St. Louis' seedier neighbourhoods of yesteryear – and blows some serious harp on 'Evil' and 'I Believe That Was A Lie.' Not to be outdone, the Canadian blues icon, Colin James stepped up to play an acoustic solo on 'That Will Never Do' that may very well be the best thing he's ever recorded. No Sinner's Colleen Rennison also dropped by the session to belt and snarl her way through 'Miss Me' the old Fontella Bass and Bobby McLure hit that will surely be remembered as one of the finest performances on 'St. Louis Blues.'
As spot on as Byrnes' choice of classic songs from St. Louis' heyday is, the thing that many of his fans look forward to hearing the most on a new album are Jim's original tunes. He's outdone himself this time with his first foray into spoken word with the emotive 'The Journey Home' that takes his listeners through the sights and sounds of the bustling St. Louis of Jim Byrnes' childhood. The slow blues of 'Old Dog, New Tricks' with beautiful clarinet accents from Tom Colclough and the spiritually uplifting 'I Need A Change' prove once again that Byrnes is an artist with a lot of depth and a huge vocal palette while 'I Believe That Was A Lie' is as fine an homage to Jimmy Reed as anyone could ever hope to hear.
The 250th anniversary of the founding of St. Louis and ten years of partnership with Steve Dawson may have had been the original motivation for recording St. Louis Times, but the sheer joy you can hear in the music Jim Byrnes and company create is the real reason to celebrate. Jim Byrnes is a living musical treasure and 'St. Louis Times' is his best record yet. And, that's saying something.
Hear The Wind in the Wires (Released 2012)
nothing more powerful than a good song and nobody knows that better
than Jim Byrnes does. So, his decision to record an album of songs
from the golden age of country music – many of which he’s
been listening to for all his life - shouldn’t be all that
surprising. Because when it all comes down - Rock, Blues, Folk,
and Country – are only labels. And there was a time when those
labels didn’t matter. Because if you know how to listen right,
you’ll understand that there’s far less than a country
mile separating Muddy Waters from Gene Autry. After all, Louis Armstrong
and Jimmie Rodgers loved to sing together and you can bet they never
once wondered if their collaborations confused their ‘target
audience.’ And, as Jim loves to tell people, blues great Johnny
Shines put it all into perspective for him many years ago by saying
that Robert Johnson was the best country singer he’d ever
If a song is good enough,
it can lift us up, bring us to tears, and heal a broken heart. That’s
something that Jim Byrnes first learned many years ago when he was
a kid in St. Louis, curled up in the living room and listening through
his mother’s record collection. Ella Fitzgerald, The Mills
Brothers, Louis Armstrong, Glenn Miller and all those great big
bands of the day gave Byrnes’ his earliest musical education.
This passion for a good song has never left him and he’s spent
the past four decades of his life listening to, writing down, singing
and sharing music with a dedicated core of fans and music lovers.
With such an encyclopedic knowledge of North American popular songs
at his fingertips, when the mood strikes him to go into the studio,
he dives back into his record collection like a jungle explorer
or old crusader in search of the Holy Grail. And if songs are like
gold, Jim has come back from his latest expedition armed with treasure.
A satchel full of songs drawn from the depths of the well of American
and Canadian roots traditions is clutched firmly in his weathered
This time around,
Byrnes turns back the hands of time to take his listeners into the
world of country music, but it’s not the kind of country we’ve
heard on the radio any time this century. The tales of lawlessness
and tender love, recklessness and yearning, and tough as nails characters
with sentimental flaws are songs that Byrnes sounds as if he was
born to sing. With Jim’s compatriot, Steve Dawson back in
the saddle again as producer and multi-instrumentalist (electric
and acoustic guitars, slide guitar, pedal steel, baritone guitar,
banjo, ukulele), I Hear The Wind In The Wires is
surely the most natural, satisfying and downright joyous album of
Byrnes’ lengthy career.
To hear these two men
celebrate the music of Buck Owens, Ray Price, Hank Williams, Marty
Robbins and other fathers of country music is a rare and exhilarating
experience. After a partnership that stretches through five albums,
2 Juno Awards, and countless tours, Byrnes and Dawson sound completely
natural together, interpreting these songs that they both sound
born to play and sing.
Not just any
musician can feel music like this and bring it to life, so when
Jim and Steve hunkered down with their vintage equipment and gear
for a four day recording session at Bryan Adams’ Warehouse
Studios in Vancouver, they brought the cream of the city’s
players in with them. With musicians like Geoff Hicks (drums), Chris
Gestrin (organ, tack piano, Wurlitzer), Mike Sanyshyn (fiddle),
John Reischman (mandolin) and Rob Becker (bass) on board, there’s
not a single note wasted. The ensemble sings and plays with an economy
and intuition that is missing from most modern blues and country
records that favor over-playing and glossy production more than
talent and authentic emotion.
Whether Jim’s delivering
a swinging, soulful take of Hank Williams’ ‘Honky Tonk
Blues’ in his best loping, old rake of a cowboy voice over
a funky organ and pedal steel duet, or he’s getting down with
a heartfelt interpretation of Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘Ribbon
of Darkness’ that gives new meaning to the expression ‘world-weary’,
Byrnes and Dawson are firing on all cylinders. As Byrnes remembers,
‘Man, this was such a great experience. Every night Steve
and I were in the studio, we’d think of other songs we could
do. This album just scratches the surface. This could easily be
a six CD box set and we’d still have songs to burn!”
Take just one
listen to Byrnes and Colleen Rennison of ‘No Sinner’
rave their way through ‘Wild Mountain Berries’ - the
old Kenny Vernon and Lawanda Lindsey duet - before you hear him
light into Little Willie John’s ‘Big Blue Diamonds’
or nail a truly transcendent take of Nick Lowe’s ‘Sentimental
Man’ and you’ll be crossing your fingers and hoping
that this is just the first of many such records and that that box
set Jim is talking about is just around the corner. Until then,
you’ll just have to let the songs on I Hear The Wind
In The Wires knock the frown off your face, pick you up
and dust you off before sending you out - six guns smoking –
to go looking for love in all the wrong places.
Everywhere West (Released 2010)
Some music simply
can’t be played in the background. The first note catches
you as the rest of the world melts away and you’ve got no
choice but to stop what you were doing and listen. Really listen.
Jim Byrnes’ new album, Everywhere West catches
you that way. Listen closely and you can hear the wind blowing through
the floorboards of long abandoned roadhouses. Wind that lifts up
the dust ground down by the stomping feet of Saturday night dancers
hurting, forgetting and testifying while Jimmy Reed hollered down
the devil and ghosts of done me wrong romance. Open the door a little
wider and some of that dust gets down your throat and all of that
trapped passion and good time hurting becomes a part of you –
just like the music of Jim Byrnes does.
For more than thirty
years, Jim Byrnes has woven roots so deeply into the Northern Blues
scene that it’s difficult to remember that this quintessentially
Canadian icon was raised in St. Louis and that his instantly recognizable
gruff as sandpaper, sweet as honey voice was not always an essential
part of the country’s musical landscape.
West marks the fourth collaboration between Byrnes and
Juno award winning musician and producer, Steve Dawson. Fans of
their previous work can rest assured that the intricate acoustic
melodies, dirty blues guitar, funky organ and passionate interplay
that we’ve come to expect when the two men get together in
the same room are here in spades. If anything, the conversation
goes a little deeper this time around and the playing is more assured
and trusting than it’s ever been before. Listening back to
some of the tracks from the album, it’s obvious that Byrnes
is thrilled with the results. “I’m not one of those
guys who loves the studio. I love live performance and being out
in the world, and I’ve always found the technical aspect of
the studio intimidating and a little bit cold. But, with Steve,
it’s so much fun making a record. It’s just a bunch
of guys sitting together and playing the music we love – with
the tapes rolling.”
As we’ve come to
expect, the musicians who support Byrnes on this effort have been
selected from the country’s best with Dawson studio regulars
Keith Lowe and Geoff Hicks laying down a rock solid rhythm section
while Jeanne Tolmie offers her usual heavenly back up vocals. Special
guest Keith Bennett turns in some tasty harmonica parts while Canadian
fiddle and horn legend, Daniel Lapp blesses listeners with some
absolutely inspired performances throughout the album.
is singing a Mississippi Sheiks chestnut like “Bootlegger’s
Blues” or wailing his way through a stripped down banjo driven
version of Bobby Bland’s “Yield Not To Temptation”,
he effortlessly inhabits every syllable and corner of this music.
Testifying with a poise and authority that few can muster, he adds
weight and depth to a Dave Van Ronk inspired take of “He Was
a Friend of Mine”. Defined by its yearning steel guitar line,
Byrnes gives new life to old pain, showing that the blues can still
cut like a razor when done right. Those who think that the world
doesn’t need any more done me wrong songs only need to listen
to Byrne’s worried to death version of Jimmy Reed’s
“Take Out Some Insurance On Me” to realize how wrong
they were, while a hip shaking good time version of Memphis Slim’s
“No Mail Blues” reminds listeners that hurting or not,
the blues has always been first and foremost about entertainment.
originals round out the album – “Hot As A Pistol”
– a passionate straight up blues rave, “Storm Warning”
– a first take recording with some hot trumpet served up by
Daniel Lapp and finally, “Me and Piney Brown” –
a lovely ‘autobiographical dream tune’ that evokes an
imaginary journey to Kansas City in 1938.
As Jim writes
in his liner notes, Everywhere West is dedicated
to ‘those who came before’, but this music doesn’t
belong in a museum. Byrnes is a thoroughly modern bluesman who honours
the past, but isn’t stuck there. The sounds and emotions he
conjures are anchored somewhere beyond this moment, in timelessness
with the understanding that truth is truth – whether glimpsed
out the window of a speeding 1963 Valiant or delivered as an instant
message to your iPhone. As Byrnes notes, “Deep down, blues
is an acceptance of life. You stand in front of life and life says,
‘that’s the way it is baby’. To play the blues,
you take all the bullshit that’s been piling up and you channel
it through your guitar and voice. You let the pain go and turn it
into a good feeling. That’s the blues – pure and simple.”
Pure and simple
doesn’t get any better than this. When you hear Jim Byrnes
pour his whole soul into singing a line as simple as ‘One
sunny day, I’ll be home to stay’, you’ll instantly
know that this is the kind of music you’re going to want to
listen to forever – long after all other moods and fashions
have faded away – and that sometimes time is on our side,
and that nearly fifty years after first wondering ‘how blue
can you get?’, Jim Byrnes has found his voice and is just
hitting his stride.
repertoire, mostly blues traditionals but with three Byrnes originals
and a song by Dawson, sounds like what you might hear at a musical
get-together in a Mississippi small town. Singing the traditional
Bootlegger's Blues, performed as a hoedown swing tune, Byrnes's
voice sounds like that of a backwoods moonshiner. He evokes another
part of the American South with Robert Johnson's From Four Until
Late, which moves like a New Orleans Mardi Gras parade song.”
- The Vancouver Sun
Walking Stick (Released 2009)
the latest blood and guts, behind your knees, love, life, death,
and after life release from the legendary multi Juno Award winning
blues and roots artist Jim Byrnes. This is the third album from
Jim in five years since he hooked up with one of North America’s
most critically acclaimed roots music producers, Steve Dawson. Byrnes
and Dawson put together another world class band and 'My Walking
Stick' finds them building on the blues roots of 2004’s Fresh
Horses and 2006’s gospel tinged Juno Award winning
House Of Refuge as they continue exploring gospel,
blues, rockabilly, country, and once again pull it all together
in an original and unique way.
since I first got in cahoots with Steve I knew I'd found a great
ally in genre bending and eliminating the pigeon holes often foisted
on musical creativity”, says Byrnes. “I've been at this
professionally for more than 40 years and I really feel that I'm
only now discovering my true voice.”
track “Ol’ Rattler” digs in and never lets go
and the same can be said for the entire album. Moving through the
border radio groove of the title track, to the 50’s vibe of
“Lookin For A Love” and a slow burning version of The
Band’s “Ophelia”, these are tales of wanderers
(“Three Shots”), lost souls (“Drown In My Own
Tears”), love (“Living Off The Love You Give Me”),
death (“What Are They Doing In Heaven Today”), and redemption
further. “John Hammond tells how in talking to Muddy Waters
he asked about why he wanted to become a professional entertainer
and, sure, there were the references to influences; Robert Johnson,
Son House, The Mississippi Sheiks, Big Bill Broonzy, but his muse
turned out to be GENE AUTRY! And so on this recording we've gone
all over the map with some originals, some obscure covers of all
sorts, a Robbie Robertson composition, retelling the stories of
John Henry and Stagger Lee in different settings, all sorts of fun
stuff with some of the best damn players in the world.”
are Keith Lowe on bass (Bill Frisell, Fiona Apple), Chris Gestrin
on keyboards (K-OS, Randy Bachman), Jesse Zubot (Zubot and Dawson,
Hawksley Workman), drummers Stephen Hodges (Tom Waits, John Hammond,
Mavis Staples) and Matt Chamberlain (Edie Brickell, David Bowie)
, critically acclaimed Vancouver based gospel trio The Sojourners,
and of course Steve Dawson and Jim Byrnes.