ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, MARCH 18, 2004
FOR MANY VANCOUVER music fans, the name Jim Byrnes brings to mind a laid-back blues veteran, grizzled yet hip, weaving soulful tales with his smoky voice, slipping in subtle slide-guitar bits here and there. The actor-musician’s latest CD, Fresh Horses, doesn’t abandon his patented sound, but it also offers a whole lot more.
For the first time, Byrnes recorded with local roots icons Steve Dawson and Jesse Zubot–and hired Dawson to produce as well–so there’s a serious acoustic-roots vibe to the album. The biggest musical departure for Byrnes can be heard in the Dawson-penned title track, a weirdly percolating instrumental that could fall into the funky space-jazz category.
Another Fresh Horses highlight that could make the set list when Byrnes headlines a fundraiser for the Inner City Foster Parents Project at Richard’s on Richards on Thursday (March 25) is his down-home rendition of Muddy Waters’s 1948 knockout “I Can’t Be Satisfied”. Turns out the Missouri-born Byrnes goes way back with the Chicago blues great.
“I met Muddy when I was 15 years old,” he relates. “The first time I saw him was at a place called Slick’s Lakeside Club in Eagle Park, Illinois. I was a huge fan of his, and I had a couple of friends, and we were fearless–we would go anywhere to see these blues guys. In fact, in later days when I met Muddy again, he recalled that night, because he just cracked up to see these 15-year-old white kids walk into this place.”
The Vancouver blues ace is quick to offer encouragement to today’s upstarts. “There are so many talented young guys around here,” raves the 55-year-old, “people doin’ all different sorts of music. James Rogers is a fantastic young blues player around town, and then there’s guys like Ridley Bent. I mean, this guy, he says, ‘I’m the Clash when I’m thinkin’ and Johnny Cash when I’m drinkin’.’ He’s a riot!
“And then there are situations like where Chin [Injeti] runs that great thing at the Railway Club at the end of every month, where he has like a revolving group of singers and songwriters show up. I think it’s great when somebody does somethin’ like that, to keep everything fresh and new. You know, for those of us who have been around for 30 or 40 years, it’s nice to be able to interact with them.”