Monday, November 15, 2010

James and Rynn Keep the Boogie Going

This writer first came across the San Diego based pair Chris James and Patrick Rynn at the 2007 Pocono Blues Festival where they backed Jody Williams. In 2008 they produced a terrific album of Chicago styled blues, on Earwig, “Stop and Think About It,” that displayed their considerable skills in playing straight-ahead Chicago inspired blues. They have a follow-up to that Blues Music Award winning disc on Earwig, “Gonna Boogie Anyway,” that perhaps places James crackling, good guitar playing a bit more prominently on a set of some less than obvious covers and strong idiomatic originals. For this they have assembled some notable guests that include pianists Henry Gray and Dave Maxwell, harmonica players Bob Corritore and Rob Stone, drummers Sam Lay and Willie Hayes, and saxophonist Johnny Viau.

Listening to them romp through Jimmy Reed’s “Can’t Stand To See You Go,” showcases James’ natural and convincing vocal delivery with Henry Gray pounding on the ivories like he did on a few of Jimmy Reed’s recordings, but it contrasts with the equally compelling duet by James and bassist Rynn, the original “Headed Out West,” that sounds like it could have been written by Eddie Taylor. The title track is a hot rocker featuring Henry Gray again pounding out the piano with hot sax riffs with James taking a hot solo that rocks and swings in a manner that would have Jody Williams smiling with, I presume Viau blasting away to close this number out. “The Tables Have Turned” is a nice Tampa Red styled number (without the slide), without Rynn on upright bass, Maxwell on piano laying down some tough piano as Stone adding some nice harp. “Life Couldn’t Be Sweeter,” is a hot shuffle with Chris james tossing in some Elmore James’ styled slide and delivering his upbeat lyric about his gal being so good. There are two separate parts of “Money Don’t Like Me.” Part 1 that opens this disc is an original where James sings about liking money but it don’t like him, adding guitar that evokes the legendary Magic Sam, while Part 2 is an instrumental take on this them, with more Magic Sam-inspired guitar and Viau taking a raspy sax solo suggestive of Eddie Shaw. Its important to note that James evokes, not recreates, Magic Sam’s sound for his driving solos. Then there is a strong interpretation of Robert Lockwood’s “Mean Black Spider,” that the two do as a duo along with excellent renditions of a couple of early Bo Diddley numbers including the closing “Little Girl” with Bob Corritore’s harp and Henry Gray’s piano spotlighted on this rocking Chicago blues.

Gonna Boogie Anyway,” follow-ups the prior award-winning recording with more of the strong playing, vocals and striking ensemble playing that made listening to that recording so rewarding. James and Rynn’s musical partnership has produced a second marvelous helping of blues delicacies. This writer looks forward to more such helpings in the future.

This review originally appeared in the July 2010 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 327). For purposes of the FTC regulations, this was supplied by a publicist for the record label.

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