Monday, November 22, 2010

Jimmy Burns Never Leaves the Blues Walking

Back in September 2007, I blogged about Jimmy Burns Live CD/DVD on Delmark. Burns emergence a decade earlier produced a truly memorable recording, Leave Here Walking, that I reviewed back in the April 1997 Jazz & Blues Report (issue 220). This terrific recording is still available although it may not be familiar to many of you, so I thought it proper to revive (with a few stylistic changes my older review to call this excellent release to your attention.

A surprising new release comes from Mississippi-born Jimmy Burns, the youngest of eleven children. Famed Detroit bluesman Eddie Burns is his oldest brother. He moved to Chicago in 1955 when he was 12 and started singing in street corner harmony groups emulating the Moonglows and the Spaniels. Burns spent the next couple decades working in this rhythm and blues vein, and became a sophisticated soul stylist.

In more recent years, Jimmy Burns has focused more on the blues, drawing on the music of such greats as the first Sonny Boy Williamson and Muddy Waters. What’s striking here is the mix of traditional blues themes with Burns’ soul-tinged vocals. He attacks his performances at a nice relaxed tempo and none sound rushed. His singing has an urgency without having to resort to frenzied histrionics.

The title track, a Burns’ original, may be this writer’s favorite, as Burns sings about getting his baby’s letter and having to go back south. There’s tasty low-key reworking of Mercy Dee Walton’s One Room Country Shack, a jaunty take of Tommy McClennan’s Whiskey Headed Woman, a sprite rendition (with Burns on the harp) of the first Sonny Boy’s Shake You Boogie, and fresh sounding renditions of Rollin’ and Tumblin’ and Catfish Blues

On most of this album Burns receives strong backing, including the judicious use of horns on two tracks). His soulful vocals are accompanied only by his guitar on three tracks: Curtis Mayfield’s Gypsy Woman; Joe Seneca’s Talk to Me (best known from Little Willie John’s hit); and Burns’ original blues Miss Annie Lou.

Burns’ blues consistently hits the target with his wonderful singing and his crisply, and cleanly delivered guitar. This is an impressive recording by a veteran who has found a welcome musical home in the blues.

Postscript. I have had the pleasure of seeing Jimmy Burns perform a couple times and he puts on a terrific show. His Live DVD/CD captures his strong side as a live performer and here is the link for my blog entry on that.

For purposes of FTC regulations, the review copy was likely provided by Delmark Records.

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