When Jim Byrnes moved from St. Louis to Vancouver, Canada's blues scene got immeasurably better. The prolific guitarist has played with the greats - Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Robert Cray - and his new disc proves yet again why his name should be included among these bluesmen. House Of Refuge is an engaging journey through old-timey gospel (Didn't It Rain), straight-up blues (Big Bill's Blues) and traditional jazz (Hoagy Charmichael's Stardust). While Byrnes's three originals, including the eclectic mix of Latin and blues on The Death Of Ernesto Guevara, are memorable, it's the covers of Robert Johnson's Last Fair Deal Gone Down and Nick Lowe's The Beast In Me that make this record.
Byrnes performs at the Mod Club as part of the Maple Blues Awards Monday (January 15).