The Harrison Festival Society presents the return of veteran blues performer Jim Byrnes on Saturday, Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. in the Harrison Memorial Hall.
For more than 30 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 this country’s musical landscape.
Byrnes’ latest album, Everywhere West marks the fourth collaboration with 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. just a bunch of guys sitting together and playing the music we love – with the tapes rolling.”
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 50 years after first wondering ‘how blue can you get?’ Jim Byrnes has found his voice and is just hitting his stride.
Playing with Byrnes will be Steve Dawson (guitar), Keith Lowe (bass) and Chris Nordquist (drums).
Tickets are $22 and available by phone at 604-796-3664, online at www.harrisonfestival.com and at the Agassiz Shoppers Drug Mart.