St. Louis Times (Black Hen)
Like Scotch whisky or French cheese, Jim Byrnes just gets better with age, and St. Louis Times is the most satisfying thing he’s ever committed to wax. In fact, it’s one of the finest blues records ever made in Western Canada; I certainly can’t think of a stronger one.
With age comes reflection, and in this case St. Louis Times finds Byrnes thinking back on his old hometown—sometimes literally, as on his own “The Journey Home”, with its riverside and baseball-park memories, and sometimes through songs written in or about the landlocked port. W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues” is here, albeit in rather New Orleans–flavoured form; more distinctive is “Nadine”, on which producer Steve Dawson pulls out his pedal steel in order to accentuate how songwriter and St. Louis native Chuck Berry’s fusion of blues and country birthed rock ’n’ roll.
Lonnie Johnson, Albert King, and Little Milton also contribute tunes, while Colin James and No Sinner’s Colleen Rennison guest, making for a package that spans more than a century of blues history with both authority and elegance.