Another legend has signed onto this year’s Roots and Blues Festival, which plays out Aug. 15 to 17.
American-born, Canadian by choice, Jim Byrnes may be best known for playing ‘Lifeguard’ on the CBS series Wiseguy (1987-1990), and Joe Dawson in the syndicated series Highlander (1993-98).
A handsome man, often bearded, Byrnes lost both his legs when, while helping push a stalled truck on a highway, he was hit from behind by a car.
After recuperating, he pursued work as a musician, and it’s the music that has had the most serious impact on his life, filling his need to be constantly creative.
Born and raised in St. Louis, Byrnes grew up on the city’s north side. One of the neighbourhood bars had Ike and Tina Turner as the house band. As a teenager going to music clubs, he and his buddy were often the only white people in the place.
“We never had any problems. We were too naïve, and had too much respect for the music and culture – they knew it, they could tell.”
Starting piano at age five, by 13 he was singing and playing blues guitar.
Over the years, he has had the good fortune to appear with a virtual ‘who’s who’ of the blues – from Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker to Taj Mahal and Robert Cray.
Byrnes moved to Vancouver in the mid-’70s after years of drifting, working odd jobs and playing music. In 1981 he formed the blues group, The Jim Byrnes Band, and began playing dates throughout Canada.
The band released three albums: Burnin’ in 1981, followed by I Turned My Days Into Nights in 1987 and 1995’s Juno-Award winning That River.
In 2004 he hooked up with Steve Dawson, one of North America’s most critically acclaimed roots music producers. Together they created five outstanding albums: 2004’s Fresh Horses, 2006’s Juno Award- winning House Of Refuge, 2009’s My Walking Stick, 2010’s Everywhere West, a salute to Byrne’s origins and influences, and 2012’s I Hear The Wind In The Wires, an album of songs from the golden age of country music.
Byrnes and Dawson were back at it again in 2014 with St. Louis Times, Byrnes’ most personal record to date.
Reminiscences of his childhood home of St. Louis are expressed through original compositions as well as versions of songs he grew up with that were recorded by hometown musicians.
By revisiting songs associated with Chuck Berry, Stump Johnson, Little Milton, Peetie Wheatstraw and more, Byrnes shares an intimate musical journey through a world that has passed by.
Although the 250th anniversary of the founding of St. Louis and 10 years of partnership with Dawson may have been the original motivation for recording St. Louis Times, the sheer joy in the music is the real reason to celebrate.
As the weather heats up and the countdown to Roots and Blues begins in earnest, there is reason to celebrate another band appearing this year.
Cinema Under the Stars, this Saturday at Haney Heritage Village features The Sheepdogs Have At It, a documentary about the small-town, Canadian rock band’s rise from obscurity to the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.
The gates open at 7:30 p.m. and hometown talents Jesse Mast and Kieran Rambo entertain with live music from 8 to 9 p.m. when the film begins.
There is limited seating. Tickets at $10 are available at 250-833-4096, or at www.routesandblues.ca (that’s “routes,” not “roots”).On another important note, the festival is still substantially short of volunteers. Join the fun before, during or after and earn a free ride to the festival.
Volunteers between the ages of 14 and 18 must have an adult volunteering as well.
To join the merry band of volunteers (who also get access to special off-site evening jams) call Skye or Jeff at 250-833-4096.