Jim Byrnes

When rockabilly meets the blues

Pigat and Byrnes come together for Harrison Memorial show

There’s been a small change to the performers joining Jim Byrnes on stage when he returns to the Harrison Memorial Hall next weekend.

But it’s a change that many music fans will appreciate.

Jim Byrnes was supposed to be performing with collaborator Steve Dawson, who put on a very stirring show in the hall, back in 2009.

Byrnes and Dawson have recently released their fourth collaborative effort, Everywhere West, the intricate acoustic melodies, dirty blues guitar, funky organ and passionate interplay.

However, Dawson is not able to make the Harrison show due to other commitments. Instead, another Harrison favourite, Paul Pigat, will join Byrnes on stage.

Pigat is better known as the guitarist Cousin Harley, whose rockabilly  band typically blows the roof off wherever they play. He’ll be bringing along drummer Chris Nordquist.

Both will back up Byrnes, who is a blues icon, and multiple Juno Award winner.

For more than thirty years, 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.

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.

They’ll play November 12 at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $22 and are available by phone at 604-796-3664, online at www.harrisonfestival.com and at the Agassiz Shoppers Drug Mart.