Jim Byrnes pays tribute to blues roots

Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, Jim Byrnes discovered the blues at a young age, listening to Sunday gospel broadcasts.

Jim Byrnes will perform at the ACT on Nov. 5.

Jim Byrnes will perform at the ACT on Nov. 5.

Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, Jim Byrnes discovered the blues at a young age, listening to Sunday gospel broadcasts.

“They would just play aces back to back, as we used to call it, nothing but great blues music,” said Byrnes

When he was a teenager, he used to sneak into clubs with his friends to see the likes of Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters and ‘Sonny Boy’ Williamson play live.

Chuck Berry was a guy who lived in his neighbourhood, 12 blocks from where he lived. When Berry released ‘Maybelline’ in 1955, he wasn’t yet a famous blues musician, but a guy who would drive down Goodfellow Boulevard in his cadillac.

So, it is not surprising that Byrnes’ latest album, St. Louis Times, is a throwback to his roots.

“Everybody who thinks about the blues thinks Memphis, they think Chicago, they think New Orleans, but St. Louis has an incredible musical heritage and it’s something I wanted to celebrate,” said Byrnes.

This year marks the 250th anniversary of the founding of St. Louis and also the 100th anniversary of the publication of the classic song Saint Louis Blues, by American composer W.C. Handy.

In honour of his hometown, Byrnes decided to do a tribute to the music he grew up with.

St. Louis Times is a mixture of original compositions by the award-winning artist, along with versions of songs he grew up with, originally recorded by St. Louis musicians.

It is described as his most personal album to date with “evocative themes and smoky vocals”  that “reveal a truth resulting from a lifetime of experience and struggle”.

It is the sixth album that Byrnes has recorded with Vancouver musician Steve Dawson. To mark the occasion, Dawson gathered some of the best roots musicians in Canada to record tracks for the album on vintage equipment in an old studio with great ambience and acoustics.

Byrnes, who has called B.C. his home for more than 40 years now, is a three-time Juno award winner and has been inducted into the  B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame.

Earlier this year he was awarded Male Vocalist of the Year at the 17th annual Maple Blues Awards in Toronto.

Byrnes will be performing at the ACT in Maple Ridge with local guitarist Lindsay Mitchell on Nov. 5 with special guest, award-winning recording artist Babe Gurr.

“We get right down to the brass tacks of what’s at the roots of the music,” Byrnes said, describing the upcoming concert.

“We do some country stuff, we do some flat out blues, we do some R and B tunes. It’s a real musical journey that you will get.”

• Tickets are $32.50 at the ACT, 11944 Haney Place. Call 604-476-2787 or check online at www.theactmapleridge.org.