Beyond blues

JIMMY BURNS at the Silver Dollar (486 Spadina), Saturday (March 10), 10:30 pm. $15. 416-975-0909. Rating: NNNNNchicago's hard-singing.

JIMMY BURNS at the Silver Dollar (486 Spadina), Saturday (March 10), 10:30 pm. $15. 416-975-0909.

Rating: NNNNN

chicago’s hard-singing jimmy Burns was understandably thrilled when his long-overdue debut disc, Leaving Here Walking (Delmark), was named blues album of the year at the National Association of Independent Record Distributors (NAIRD) awards a couple of years back. But he’s since learned that the honour has its downside.

A soulful song stylist with a background in gospel and street-corner doo-wop, Burns — who’s the brother of Detroit blues legend Eddie Burns — is just as comfortable shouting a hymn as crooning tender R&B ballads.

But when the old-school entertainer tried showing off his range on his most recent recording, Night Time Again (Delmark), the album got a chilly reception from blues critics and blinkered proponents of conventional 12-bar shuffles.

Apparently it just wasn’t blues enough. But for those familiar with Burns’s varied career and his impressive output of uptempo stompers for Chi-town indies during the mid-60s — including the $1,000 northern soul classic I Really Love You (Erica) — the switch to a more groove-oriented sound is a welcome return to form.

“The blues today is nothing but a name,” offers Burns from his Chicago home. “For a white audience that might mean Stevie Ray Vaughan, and for a black audience it could be Z.Z. Hill. You can call it the blues, but I just do what I do.

“I guess a lot of writers reviewing my latest CD expected it to have that same traditional sound of my first one, but I wanted to try something else. You know, I wanted to rock it a little more. My next album is gonna be different again. This time I’ll go for a rawer Delta sound. The Delta stuff rocks, man — that’s where it’s at right now.”

Anyone wishing to hear Burns sing his Wigan Casino anthem I Really Love You will have to be content with spinning the Grapevine label reissue at home. It might be his best-loved tune, but Burns hasn’t added it to his set list.

“This producer, Clarence Johnson, had the track done with all the horns and everything. I just came in and sang on it. Of all the songs that I’ve recorded, that’s the only one I’ve never performed after leaving the studio, and I don’t know if I ever will.

“When I listen back to it now, I still enjoy the song, but I’ve moved on to other things.”

timp@nowtoronto.comJimmy Burns can’t be straitjacketed By TIM PERLICH

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