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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!

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Showing posts with label Chris James. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chris James. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

VizzTone artist: Bob Corritore and Friends - Phoenix Blues Rumble - New Release Review

 I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Phoenix Blues Rumble, from Bob Corritore and Friends and it's a great blues rumble. Opening with Big Fat Woman 489 LBS. a blues rocker featuring Chico Chism on vocal and drums, Henry Gray on piano, Paul Thomas on bass and Bob Corritore on harmonica. This is a solid opener with plenty of harmonica by Corritore. With a deep, New Orleans, R&B feel King Karl has the microphone on Mathilda, wailing some really soulful lines. With Johnny Rapp on guitar, S.E. Willis on piano Thomas on bass and Doug James on horns, this is a real standout. George Bowman has the mic for slow blues, I Was A Fool and it's one of my favorites on the release with Jon Atkinson on guitar, Danny Michel on rhythm guitar, Troy Sandow on bass and Brian Fahey on drums. Corritore is a standout on this track with thick, heavily hooded harmonica and Atkinson lays in a tasty guitar of his own to tie down the track. Shuffle, Nine Times Out Of Ten, with it's sonny Boy Williams feel, again features Bowman on lead vocal. Atkinson on guitar fans the guitar nicely, Corritore blows a strong solo on harp and Sandow and Fahey hold the bottom tight. Sugaray Rayford leads the way on The Glide with super vocals joined by Junior Watson on guitar, Fred Kaplan on piano, Kedar Roy on bass and Rena Beavers on drums. Watson takes a real nice solo with Kaplan keeping the rhythm on piano. Wrapping the release is I'm Evil, a slower Chicago style track featuring Big Pete Pearson on lead vocal. With Johnny Rapp pulling the strings on lead guitar, Corritore adding essential harmonica lead, Chris James on guitar, Matt Bishop on piano, Patrick Rynn on bass and Fahey on drums, this is an excellent closer. 

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Friday, September 11, 2015

VizzTone Label Group artists: Chris James & Patrick Rynn - Trouble Don't Last - New Release Review

I just received the newest release, Trouble Don't Last, from Chris James and Patrick Rynn and it's a fresh look at Chicago style blues with a stripped down approach. Opening with Shameless, James leads off on guitar and lead vocal, Rynn on bass, Rob Stone on harp and June Core on drums. With it's quick steady pace, Stone and James each take real nice solos making this a great opener. Next up is Calvin Frazier's classic, Lilly Mae. James' vocals on this track are super and Aki Kumar shows why he is so requested as a guest harp player. Rynn drives this track on bass as Kumar and James solo. Excellent! Freddie King track, Lonesome Whistle Blues, (written by Toombs, Teat, Moore) is in full swing with Kumar and Stone trading riffs with James on vocal and guitar. Walking bass by Rynn and tight drumming by Core makes this one of my favorite tracks on the release. Digging down in the groove, Going Down To The Ocean, is another real smart track. James has both the vocal and guitar skills to carry off this type of stripped down feel and with only Rynn on bass and Core on drums, takes total command of the track. Complimented nicely by Kumar's excellent harp work, this track really grinds. Title track, Trouble Don't Last has a lighter, contemporary Piedmont style with Kumar adding to it's fresh feel. This track has that train feel without being driven by the harp but with a trace giving it a new approach and James' vocals being are manly but not heavy as associated with most more classic blues tracks. Very nice! An old Robert C Smith track, Don't Drive Me Away maintains a good track of it's Mississippi root without sounding like a cover. The stripped down nature of the band helps considerably in it's success as does James' particular guitar and vocal styling on this track. Uptempo blues track, Steady Goin' On, is a great harp rumble featuring Stone and Kumar. Solid foundation set by Core and Rynn gives James a great platform to throw down some of his best guitar work on the release, balancing the super harp duo. Excellent! One of the most compelling tracks on the release, A Good Idea At The Time, is strongly lyrical with rudimentary instrumentation. Stone adorns this simple track with pearls of harp and James dazzles the strings but it's the imagery that carries this track. Chicago track, Hard To Keep A Dollar, is a great story telling track with a bit of humor. Kumar has the harp on this track, getting great tone and James, Rynn and Core are musically tight. Wrapping the release is Sunnyland Slim's Roll, Tumble and Slip. With a Latin beat courtesy of Rynn and Core, the track has a cool uneven groove against the basic blues dynamics. Stone and Kumar both riff out on harp and Rynn really steps up on bass. This is a great closer for a fresh new Chicago sound release!

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Delta Groove Music artist: The Henry Gray / Bob Corritore Sessions - Blues Won't Let MeTake My Rest - New Release review

I just received the newest release, Blues Won't Let Me take My Rest from Henry Gray and Bob Corritore. Featuring 10 previously unreleased out of 14 included tracks, this release features not only Gray and Corritore, but many other of the greats in recent blues history. Opening with Let's Get High, a great piano shuffle with Gray on lead vocal backed by Willie "Big Eyes" Smith on backing vocal and drums and Corritore on harp, this is a great opener. Gray's vocals on Blues Won't Let Me Take My Rest are a stark contrast to Clapton but this is real and Gray's piano with Corritore on shielded harp, Bob Margolin and Johnny Rapp on guitar and Chico Chism on drums, this sounds a lot like Muddy's band. New Orleans flavored boogie, I'm In Love Again features a cool harp riff by Corritore and hot guitar riffs by Rapp. Robert Jr Lockwood is featured on vocal and guitar on Robert Johnson's Ramblin' On My Mind, one of my favorite tracks on the release. Big Maceo's Worried Life Blues, feature Nappy Brown on lead vocal but Gray's piano work is solid and unmistakable. Gray is in top form on vocal on They Raided The Joint, joined by Kid Ramos on guitar, Corritore on harp, Paul Thomas on bass and Chism on drums. Very cool! Dave Riley takes the lead vocal spot on Ride With Your Daddy Tonight joined by Chris James on guitar, Yahni Yiley on bass and Eddie Kobek on drums. Corritore and Gray both do really nice jobs on this track making it one of the strongest instrumental tracks on the release. Lowell Fulsom's Trouble Blues, has a great feel with Rapp laying down some real nice slide over Gray's killer piano and vocal work. Excellent! Shuffle track, I'm Gonna Miss You, keeps Gray up front on piano and vocal. With extended harp work from Corritore, Steve Cushing on drum and, Paul Thomas on bass this track, Rapp steps up again with some pretty cool riffs on guitar. John Brim's That Ain't Right features Brim himself on the mic backed by Troy Sandow on bass and Big John Atkinson on drums. Corritore keeps up the heat but this track really shows how nicely Gray can hit the groove on piano. Ernest Lawler's Can't Afford To Do It has Gray back on lead vocal backed by Little Frank, Danny Michael and Big John on guitar, Sandow on bass and Brian Fahey on drums. One of the hottest tracks on the release is Boogie Woogie Ball, really giving Gray the open door to rock it and he really does. Corritore has strong continuity on harp throughout the track, Kirk Fletcher it tight on the beat with hot riffs backed by Patrick Rynn on bass and Brian Fahey on drums. Very cool! On laid back Honey Don't Let Me Go, Gray has the full focus with lead vocal and piano. Backed by Rapp on guitar, Thomas on bass and Cushing on drums, Corritore steps in for a nice harp solo balancing out the track nicely. Wrapping the release is BB King's She Don't Move Me No More featuring Gray on beautiful piano and lead vocal. I especially like Corritore's riffs on this track as well as Rapps tight guitar solos. Paul Thomas on bass and Chico Chism on drums round out the line up.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Vizztone Label Group artist: Rob Stone - gotta keep rollin' - New release review

I just received the newest release (September 9, 2014), gotta keep rollin', from Rob Stone and it smells of sweet Chicago. Opening with a strong Chicago style blues, Wait Baby, Stone is out front singing and blowing his harp backed by Chris James on guitar. Cool harp work and solid guitar riffs over a solid beat provided by Patrick Rynn (bass) and and Willie Hayes (drums)provides for a great opener. John Lee Willamson's easy stepping Wonderful Time features nice piano work from David Maxwell and a different slice of Stones super vocal work. His harp work complimented by James on guitar makes for an happy go lucky track. Another Chicago style shuffle track, Lucky 13 gives Stone a wide road to play his harp and he takes every inch of it. Cool vocal phrasing, a tight guitar solo from John Primer and a cool melody makes for one of the most memorable tracks on the release. Anything Can Happen features Eddie Shaw on sax and he tears up the solo opportunity as you would absolutely expect. Very cool! Jazz Gillum's, She Belongs To Me, has a subtle easy pace lead by Frank Rossi on brushes giving Stone an easy cloud to sing and especially harp over. Billy Emerson's Move Baby Move, has a great swing and a ringing guitar solo rhythm throughout. James steps out nicely on guitar on this track but leaves room for the super Eddie Shaw to wind it up and blow it out. Very nice! Strollin' With Sasquatch is a very cool instrumental featuring Stone on harp, Ariyo on piano, Maxwell on piano, James on guitar, Rynn on bass and Hayes on drums. Smooth! Wired and Tired has that Muddy Waters jump feel. Featuring Henry Gray on a signature piano solo and Eddie Kobek on drums this track moves. Stone lays out some great harp riffs and James is ever ready on guitar. Super! Willie McTell's Cold Winter Day is a real down and dirty blues track featuring some of my favorite harp work on the release. Maxwell rolling in some really nice piano work and with hot guitar riffs from Primer not only in solo form but also under the melody this is another of my favorites on the release. Excellent! Cornelius Green's It's Easy When You Know How has a certain R&B feel featuring Maxwell on piano under the vocal and harp work of Stone. Having more of a pop feel, this track should have broad appeal. Blues Keep Rollin' On features cool vocal harmonies with Clarke Rigsby and a really infectious melody/rhythm. Not No More' is a great final track for this release with a driving drum rhythm from Hayes, tidy guitar riffs and solo work from James, super piano work from Maxwell, clever lead vocals from Stone, accentuating backing vocals by Mike Mahany and an overall good feeling. Very cool!

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 This track not on this release but a good example of Stone's work:

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Earwig Music artists: Chris James and Patrick Rynn - Barrellhouse Stomp - New Release Review

I just received the newest release, Barrelhouse Stomp, from Chris James and Patrick Rynn and it's a roller! Opening with contemporary Chicago style blues track, Goodbye, Later For You, in traditional fashion, Rynn and James open the release featuring super harp support from Rob Stone and piano work from Aaron Moore. James is always solid on vocals and he lays down nicely phrased riffs on guitar. Just Another Kick In The Teeth has a funky swing to it featuring Eddie Shaw on sax (as well as Jonny Viau, Norbert W Johnson) and Jody Williams on guitar. Viau opens I Feel So Good with a honkin good sax solo and James does a nice job of delivering on this classic blues track with contributions from Willie Big Eyes Smith (drums) and Aarom Moore on piano. Messin' With White Lightning has a spankin quick pace and Jody and James are on it with guitar riffs. Hot piano riffs from David Maxwell highlight this track and Willie Hayes is tight on drums. On slower paced swing track, Before It's Too Late, James digs in with vocal acuity and Moore really shines on keys.  A Fact Is A Fact, a quick paced Chicago style blues features Viau and Johnson on sax and Eddie Kobek on drums. James' vicious slide work and Rynn's steady bass work really make this work. One of my favorite tracks on the release, It Always Can Be Worse, James plays really nice harp along with his vocals and guitar, backed nicely by Hayes, Maxwell and Rynn. I'm Gonna Stop Foolin' Myself has a real R&B feel to it with Johnson and Viau back on mighty sax and Williams lays down some fine riffs on guitar. On classic Vicksburg Blues, Stone is back on harp and Williams on guitar but it's James on vocal and Maxwell on keys that really take this track for a ride. Bobby's Rock is in the tradition of Freddy King with really super fluid slide work from James and fine sax work from Kobek, Viau and Johnson. Take It Easy is a jammin boogie with Maxwell leading the way on keys. This is another track that really highlights James' vocals. Last Call Boogie is a really cool track using the Latin beat under the blues. Full blast sax work, Kobek really smokin the drums, Gray really hammering the keys and nice double stop guitar work from James makes this a terrific wrap to a solid release.  

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Blind Raccoon & Earwig Music Showcase & A Bunch Of Other Happenings In Memphis This Week!

Blind Raccoon
Blind Raccoon & Earwig Music Showcase
Friday, May 10, 2 - 8:15 p.m.
Purple Haze Night Club, Downtown Memphis, One Block South of B.B. King's on Second
Andy Cohen, Leo Hull, Tommy McCoy, Guitar Mikey
RB Stone, Johnny Drummer & Chris James and Patrick Rynn

Blues Hall of Fame Tribute Jam
Wednesday, May 8, 10 p.m. onwards
B.B. King's on Beale, Memphis

Yellow Dog Records All Star Showcase
Thursday, May 9, 12:45 - 3:45 p.m.
B.B. King's on Beale, Memphis

VizzTone Label Group's Blues Party On Beale
Friday, May 10, 10 p.m. onwards
Rum Boogie on Beale, Memphis

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Delta Groove Music artists: John Primer and Bob Corritore - Knockin' Around The Blues

I just received the much anticipated new release from Delta Groove, Knockin' Around The Blues from John Primer and Bob Corritore and it's great! Both Corritore and Primer are known for their traditional Chicago style and this is right on it...but it is a solid square hit. Opening with The Clock, you're in Chicago and the best band in town is up and making that statement isn't far off. These guys, both superstars themselves, have a full hand of musicians with them. Primer of course handles lead vocals and he's always terrific. Corritore can really be magic on the harp and his playing on this track is very strong. Barrelhouse Chuck adds terrific riffs throughout and Chris James and Primer both do nice jobs on guitar on this track. Blue and Lonesome opens with a great intro from Chuck and Primer and Corritore exchange call and response. This is slow dirty blues like you love it. One of the comments that I've had of some recordings of Corritore in the past have been that he gets lost in the mix. Not on this recording! Corritore is well highlighted and sounding great. James and Primer are both highlighted on guitar on this track as well and there is a blood curdling solo on this track that is not to be missed. When I Get Lonely is an uptempo blues track and Brian Fahey is light in the front on drums. Primer has a great voice and Corritore takes a real nice solo early in the track complimenting his singing. Great harp tone! A smokin' Chicago loper, Cairo Blues, is up next and Billy Flynn (guitar), Bob Stroger (bass) and Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith join the mix. Corritore really gets the harp screamin on this track and Chuck adds really nice punctuation throughout. Leanin' Tree opens with some smokin guitar riffs but them paring back to highlight to allow Primer to lead the way on vocal. One of my favorite tracks on the release, James, Primer and Corritore all take nice solos on this track. Harmonica Joyride is an absolute blast! Corritore takes a step to the front and demonstrates clearly why he's regarded as on of the top harp men in the business today. (Yeah stilladog...this track's for you pal). Little Boy Blue, of course the great track by Robert Jr. Lockwood is a nice slow in the pocket track. Corritore again blowin exceptional tone on this track. Chuck of course is always spot on and this track is no exception. Opening with a real slick slide intro, Dixon's Just Like I Treat You is bright and full of energy featuring Patrick Rynn on bass and Brian Fahey on drums. Again the mastery of Corritore is well documented on this track. Chuck takes a cool piano solo on this track opening for Primer on slide. Saw Primer a short while back at the rhythm Room and his second set blew the doors off the place. This is a guy who can really do it all in his genre. Man Or Mouse gets right into the groove. Billy Flynn takes a nice solo on this track and Chuck keeps the ivories hot. Finishing up with Going Back Home, an old Lightning Hopkins track, the band is tight and lays down the last of 10 solid performances. Corritore takes the first of the solos on this track is it's really apparent how deeply he feels about getting just the right tome. Excellent. Chuck belly's up with a really clean solo but James and Primer really step it up on this track and knock it out of the park. This is a great contemporary recording of traditional Chicago blues played by a group of exceptional blues musicians. This is one not to be missed.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Delta Groove Artists: Tail Dragger and Bob Corritore - Longtime Friends in the Blues : Review

I just had the opportunity to review the new recording by Bob Corritore and Tail Dragger. Longtime Friends In The Blues will be formally released on March 20, 2012. Tail Dragger wrote 9 of the ten tracks included on this Chicago Blues infused release. The band is made up of numerous veteran artists. In addition to Tail Dragger on vocals and of course Corritore on harp, Henry Gray plays Piano, Kirk Fletcher and Chris James play guitar, Patrick Rynn plays bass and Brian Fahey plays drums. The recording begins with I'm Worried and Tail Dragger takes no time in demonstrating his trademark vocals and his Howlin' Wold influence. Sugar Mama finds Tail Dragger and Henry Gray trading off on vocals. This track shows some particularly cool guitar riffs and of course always Corritore staying tight with his harp. Birthday Blues is a great uptempo blues with strong soloing by Corritore. She's Worryin' Me is a great tune with Corritore winding his harp up a little and great understated guitar work under the mix. Cold Outdoors is another solid track with some strong piano work by Gray and of course solid vocals by Tail Dragger and some great harp voicing from Corritore. So Ezee is a cool driving blues and possibly the best track on the release. The tempo is just solid and Corritore is right on the back of Tail Dragger blowin his harp and the guitars kick in some really great riffs. Through With You is the first slow blues on the release and is very effective in grabbing the sound. All of the instrumentalists get a chance to show their stuff and Dragger leads the way. Done Got Old picks the tempo back up and gets the groove going really well. This is real Chicago! Boogie Woogie Ball, another of my favorites, gives Gray a chance to take the lead and he doesn't hold back. He does a great job on hammering out a great boogie on the keys and leaves space for some nice guitar soloing as well as the rest of the band to strut their stuff. Please Mr. Jailer, another slow blues track finds Tail Dragger beggin the jailer to have mercy on his girl. This is another strong track and another where Corritore blows some great licks. You like Chicago blues? This is the place!

As a side note Corritore and Tail Dragger first met at a Howlin' Wolf tribute in Chicago the day after Wolf died back in 1976. Gray performed and recorded with Wolf for 12 years.

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This track isn't on the release but is representative of the music on the cd. Enjoy!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Gonna Boogie Anyway - Chris James and Patrick Rynn

Chris’ dazzling guitar work is featured even more prominently than on its acclaimed predecessor, and for the first time on disc, the pair performs four unplugged selections, James’ vocals ringing with extraordinary force over rollicking grooves anchored by Patrick’s rock-steady bass. Original material dominates; the album’s four covers include two Bo Diddley gems (“Little Girl” and “Dearest Darling”). Piano legends Henry Gray and David Maxwell and veteran Chicago drummers Sam Lay and Willie Hayes are all on board, as is their harp-blowing cohort Rob Stone. Chris and Patrick return the favor on Rob’s new Earwig CD, Back Around Here.

Stop And Think About It spread the names of Chris James and Patrick Rynn far and wide. The CD was nominated for a Blues Music Award as best debut recording and won a Blues Blast Award as best artist debut. “Mister Coffee,” a standout original from the album, was nominated for a BBA and a third place finisher in the Independent Music Awards, where Chris and Patrick were nominated for a People’s Choice Award. And in 2010, Patrick was nominated for a Blues Music Award as best bassist, adding another impressive honor to their shared trophy case.

The San Diego-based bluesmen inaugurated their musical partnership in 1990 when both were in Chicago for the first time. The sartorially splendiferous duo has been inseparable ever since, their telepathic onstage interplay always in evidence whether they’re digging deep into classic postwar blues or dishing up the meaty, satisfying originals prominently featured on their new CD. By the time of that fateful first meeting, Chris, once a teenaged musical prodigy, had logged plenty of gigging miles, fronting bands long before he ever visited the Windy City.

Born in North Carolina but raised in the warm and sunny climes of San Diego, Chris was thoroughly hooked on blues as a child. “My stepdad got me hooked on blues, and I started playing blues piano by the time I was 11. Chuck Berry was the first guy that was really a big influence on me,” he says. “When they were interviewing him, he talked about the same four guys all the time. He talked about Muddy Waters and Little Walter, Elmore James, and Charlie Christian.”

Chris tracked down a BBC radio documentary on Berry to investigate the Duck Walker’s major influences first-hand. “The very first thing they played was Muddy and Walter: ‘I Just Want To Make Love To You,’” he says. “That was the song that I heard that I just said, ‘This is what I want to do!’” Also on the tape was pianist Jay McShann’s “Confessin’ The Blues,” featuring singer Walter Brown. “That was basically one of the very first blues songs I remember learning the words to. That’s why it was important for me to put on our very first CD.”

Transfixed by anything having to do with blues, Chris snagged a gofer job at a local blues festival where he met legendary shouter Roy Brown, received an impromptu guitar lesson from Lowell Fulson, and talked to Texas-bred guitarist Tomcat Courtney, San Diego’s top bluesman then and now. “I just saw him, and I really liked Tomcat,” says Chris, already skilled enough on harp at the tender age of 13 to join Courtney’s band shortly thereafter their first encounter.

“I only played harmonica with him for maybe six months or something like that, and then the bass player quit. And then Tom just gave me a bass and said, ‘Okay, boy, here’s the bass. The bass player’s quit. I need you to learn this by next week!’” laughs Chris, who followed orders. Soon he was alternating between bass and guitar with Courtney before switching over to guitar altogether. Tomcat’s main haunt was the Texas Teahouse, where the Texas-born guitarist headlined Thursdays. “The place was packed to the rafters, like a sardine can, with college kids,” says Chris. “There were times the place was so packed in the summertime that we couldn’t even get off the stage to take our break. We just stayed up onstage.”

Although blues remained Chris’ primary passion, it wasn’t his only idiomatic interest. “When I was 17, I stopped playing blues for a year because I wanted to get myself a music education,” he says. Veteran jazz saxists Gene Porter and Jimmie Noone, Jr. provided it. “I started hanging out with these guys, because other than having a natural ability to play, I wanted to know what I was playing.” After absorbing their combined wisdom, it was back to Tomcat and the blues for another extended stretch. Chris made his recording debut at 17, playing harp, piano and guitar on Italian country blues guitarist Roger Belloni’s The Lemon Grove Tapes.

In 1990, Chris made his first pilgrimage to Chicago, where he heard dazzling blues piano emanating from the Underground Wonder Bar one evening, courtesy of local 88s ace Detroit Junior. “I was so excited meeting Detroit Junior that I asked him if I could sit in,” says Chris, who proceeded to do so on a borrowed guitar. “I ended up playing the whole second set with him. So then the break came and I said, ‘I appreciate you letting me sit in!’ And I was going to be on merry way. And Detroit stopped me. He goes, ‘Do you want to play the third set with me?’ I said, ‘I have nothing better to do, man. I’d love to!’ So I stayed and played the third set. I finished out the night with him. I finally said goodbye, and I was walking out the door, and he hollered, he said, ‘Hey, one more thing–what are you doing tomorrow?’ I said, ‘Nothing.’ He goes, ‘Well, I’m playing here again. You’re hired!’”

When he wasn’t playing behind Detroit Junior (whose “Call My Job” remains a blues classic), Chris made the rounds of the local jam sessions. At the now-defunct B.L.U.E.S. Etc., he first encountered his future musical partner Patrick. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight.

“We did not hit it off when we first met each other,” admits Chris. Fate decreed that the pair would cross paths again very soon. “About two days later after that, I’m working at the Guitar Center, and in walks this guy. And it was Chris,” says Patrick. A couple of days later, Chris came back to the guitar emporium again.

“I’ve got a guitar in my hand, and I’m playing. I’m squeaking around on it, doing some stuff, trying to play some slide things,” says Patrick. “The phone rings in my department, and I’m thinking, ‘Okay, I’ve got to get the phone.’ I hand the guitar to somebody, and I get the phone. And I’m on the phone, and my back is towards the people, and I’m facing the wall. Well, all of a sudden, about halfway in this conversation, I start hearing the heaviest traditional country blues. And I turn around, and it’s Chris. And I just got this big smile on my face, and he stood there grinning at me. He was playing ‘Terraplane Blues.’

“We became instant friends. He was in Chicago visiting his cousin, and he didn’t have anything to do, so he ended up coming down to the store just about every day. He’d be back in the acoustic room, and he’d be teaching me how to play this stuff.” Chris convinced Patrick to concentrate exclusively on bass rather than spending time playing guitar. “He saw something in me that I didn’t even see,” says Patrick. “He says, ‘Man, you’re a bass player!’”

It wasn’t like Patrick didn’t have experience holding down the bottom in a blues band. Born in Toledo, Ohio, he was classically trained on bass before a high school buddy urged him to check out a high school jazz ensemble led by veteran saxist Floyd “Candy” Johnson, who invited the young bassist to play with the orchestra. “He pulls out this piece of music and he sets it down. He says, ‘We’re gonna play this. You just play this.’ I said, ‘Okay, no problem.’

“It was the bass line written out,” continues Patrick. “So he counts it off and we get into it and we start playing, and I get to the 12th measure. There’s no repeat sign, there’s no turnaround, so I stop playing. So then about 25 measures into the piece, Candy Johnson gets this funny look on his face and he stops the band, and he goes, ‘Boy, what the hell are you doing?’ And I said, ‘Well, what do you mean? You gave me this piece of music, it’s got 12 measures, no repeat sign. I thought I was done!’ He said, ‘Son, this is blues. You just keep playing!’ And it turned out it was Duke Ellington’s ‘C-Jam Blues.’ And that’s how I got introduced into blues.”

Patrick had a blues epiphany at age 18. “I was in this bookstore at the university, and every second quarter of the school year they had a tape sale,” he says. “I saw this one, and it was pretty cool, and I said, ‘Well, I’ll get this.’ So I paid five bucks for it, and I threw it in my backpack and I went to school. Then at the end of the day, I was going home and I remembered I had that tape in my book bag. I stuck it in, and I pressed play. And my God, it still puts a lump in my throat. My whole world just changed, man. It was The Best Of Elmore James. And that first tune on there, ‘Dust My Broom,’ he hit that slide and went into it, and man, I got chills up and down my spine. I got a lump in my throat. It just moved me so heavy, man. I was like, ‘Wow! Wow!’ It just blew me away.”

The Griswolds, led by brothers Art and Roman Griswold, were Toledo’s top blues band. Patrick’s cousin urged him to check them out at the Longhorn Saloon. “After about four months of going down and seeing the Griswolds, one night I walked in and I had my harmonica in my pocket, and I asked if I could sit in. And they said, ‘Sure!’” says Patrick. “We did a couple of songs, and boy, I stunk the stage up so bad. But I was up there playing, and I was digging it. I was hooked!”

Four months later, Patrick noticed a bass onstage belonging to saxist Eli “Professor Easy” Gardner at another Griswolds gig. “I said, ‘Well, I play bass!’ I didn’t play blues bass, but I play bass. He said, ‘Well, come on!’ So I sat in, and I sort of rudimentarily knew how to play a walking bass line from playing jazz in the jazz band. So I got through the 12 bars of it. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I was doing it well enough to where Fess looked over at Art and said, ‘Hey, that bottom sounds pretty good, don’t it?’ Art was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, that sounds pretty good!’ Art used to talk real fast. So they said, ‘Hey, can you come back tomorrow night?’ And I said, ‘Sure!’” Patrick borrowed a bass and amp from a local music store for the gig. “I didn’t get paid, but I played the whole night with them,” he says. “After a couple of nights of that, I ended up playing with them for five years.”

Patrick’s first Chicago visit came in the spring of 1990 at the behest of one of Chicago’s most revered harp players, the late Junior Wells. The two had met at a Toledo blues festival that spring; when Wells’ set with Buddy Guy was rained out, his band came down to visit the Griswolds that evening. Fortuitously, Junior found himself in need of a bassist when it came time to sit in. Patrick was more than happy to volunteer his services.

“I played an hour-and-a-half with the band and Junior Wells,” says Patrick. “That night changed my whole life.” Wells was impressed. “After we were done playing, Junior says to me, ‘Son, you play pretty good. The fest in Chicago is in a couple weeks. I’d like to invite you out to be my guest!’” During his brief stay in Chicago, Patrick met the cream of Chicago blues royalty. “I went down to the Checkerboard Lounge, and that day I played onstage with James Cotton.”

After such an exciting weekend, the Toledo blues circuit didn’t seem as enticing, so Patrick decided to move to the Windy City that autumn. “I packed up everything I could get in my car, which wasn’t very big at the time,” he says. “I had a thousand bucks in my pocket, and I went to Chicago. I didn’t know anybody, I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have a place to live.”

With both young bluesmen settled in the Windy City, Chris drilled Patrick on the traditional aspects of the blues. “Nine hours a day, every day, having to listen to records and learn how to play with the music and learn how to get that internal music without a drummer. He was teaching me how to play bass lines and walk the bass and how to do different grooves, like a lump or a slow Muddy or a B.B. King shuffle,” says the bassist. “He was teaching me the rudiments of everything. And I was learning and listening and going out to the clubs every night. Man, I was exhausted. But over time, it started happening.”

They landed their first weekly gig together at the Tip On Inn and took it from there. The pair’s first big break came as an outgrowth of a tribute to harp immortal Little Walter at Rosa’s Lounge with an all-star cast of Chicago blues giants in attendance, including Louis and Dave Myers, Billy Boy Arnold, Jimmie Lee Robinson, Big Moose Walker, Sunnyland Slim, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, and plenty more.

The pair didn’t know they’d be asked to perform. “Louis and Dave and all these guys, they wanted a break. But there were so many guys in there that they needed people to play,” says Chris. “They asked me, ‘Do you know Little Walter?’ I said, ‘Of course I know Walter’s stuff!’ So they put us up there, and we started playing. And there’s Willie Smith and Sam Lay and all these guys, looking at us playing. I was so nervous it was unbelievable. It was a miracle I could play, ‘cause these guys were all looking at me and Patrick playing.”

It took a few months, but that winning performance paid off. “The phone rang, and Chris runs in the house, and he’s in there for about a half hour,” says Patrick. “And he comes running out. He says, ‘Get packed! We’re going to Atlanta!’ I’m like, ‘What do you mean?” He said, ‘Sam Lay–we just got hired! We’re going down to Atlanta for a week and playing!’ The two anchored the powerhouse drummer’s band for five years. “Within six to seven months of being in Chicago, we ended up being in a national act,” says Patrick. The two first recorded together as members of Sam’s band, the tapes debuting in 1994 on Appaloosa as Sam Lay Blues Band Live. Slide Guitar Blues, hailing from the same date, later came out on Icehouse and marked Chris’s first vocal outings on record. More recently, they backed Lay on Hightone’s live Rhythm Room Blues in 2001.

The two grew close to Dave Myers, co-founder of the Aces and a Chicago blues electric bass pioneer. “We used to go over to his house and spend all night just sitting in his kitchen playing. Chris on guitar, Dave on guitar, me playing Davey’s bass. I always knew I was doing okay if Dave was smiling. But as soon as I started doing something that wasn’t right, he’d kind of screw his face up a little bit and look right through me. And he’d go, ‘Why are you doggin’ your bass?’ I’m going, ‘I didn’t know I was!’” says Patrick, who was surprised to see a photo of Candy Johnson in Dave’s collection (ironically, the saxist occasionally shared a bandstand with the Aces during the ‘50s). “Dave Myers was a huge influence on me. Not only was he an influence, but he was a really dear, close friend. He was a friend first before he was an influence. And I miss him a lot. I still think about him when I play.”

While playing in Woodland Park, Colorado in 1994, Lay invited college student and budding harp player Rob Stone to sit in with them that night. Like Chris and Patrick, Rob felt a migrational pull to Chicago. The three teamed up as a unit there before Chris and Patrick returned to San Diego (they can be seen in action at the 2000 Chicago Blues Festival in Godfathers And Sons, part of Martin Scorsese’s PBS-TV blues documentary series). When Stone decided to make an album, he asked his friends to come back and help. “Robbie wanted to start getting gigs in Chicago on his own, so he needed to have his own CD,” says Chris. “We were working on the CD and recording it, so then we said, ‘What are we gonna call the band?’” They decided on the C-Notes, in honor of Rob’s spendthrift ways and Chris’s penchant for spending his last buck on CDs.

No Worries, Rob Stone & the C-Notes’ acclaimed 1998 debut album, was just the beginning. In addition to co-starring on the C-Notes’ potent 2003 Earwig release Just My Luck (they co-wrote nine songs with Rob on the set, which featured guest appearances by Dave Myers and Sam Lay), the pair has recorded with piano pounder Dennis Binder (2007's Hole In That Jug on Earwig), and played on legendary Chicago guitarist Jody Williams’ second Evidence album in 2004, You Left Me In The Dark (Chris had the honor of playing alongside one of his heroes, Robert Jr. Lockwood, on the set). They’d begun playing with Jody near the beginning of his heartwarming comeback, when they traveled to Westport, Mississippi with Sam Lay to play the 2000 Howlin’ Wolf Memorial Blues Festival.

“Jody did not come down with a band. So they were scrambling around trying to find someone to play with Jody,” explains Chris, who cites Williams as one of his guitar heroes along with Louis and Dave Myers, Robert Jr. Lockwood, and Luther Tucker. “I said, ‘Hell yeah, I’ll back up Jody!’” Back in Chicago, Jody hired the Blue Four as his band (Willie Hayes was on drums). “He liked playing with us,” says Chris, “and he saw that we were reliable and dependable.” They traveled the globe with Williams until 2004; Chris contracted a serious stomach ailment in Italy in 2004 that prematurely ended that stint with the revered guitarist.

After an unexpectedly lengthy recovery period in San Diego, Chris was well enough by July of ‘05 to travel to Europe as a member of Phoenix harpist Bob Corritore’s band. That led to his being asked to join the Rhythm Room All Stars. “I was in the band for like six months, then Patrick came aboard,” says Chris. Their explosive exploits at the Rhythm Room can be heard on House Rockin’ And Blues Shoutin’!, a 2007 live disc on the Blue Witch label where they back Big Pete Pearson and Billy Boy Arnold. They also played brilliantly on Downsville Blues, Courtney’s 2008 national debut CD for Blue Witch.

Neither Chris nor Patrick can fully explain their ESP-like musical compatibility. “When I started playing with Chris, I didn’t know anything,” ventures Patrick, whose bass influences in addition to Dave Myers include Willie Kent, Ransom Knowling, and Big Crawford (as you might expect after encountering the latter two names, he’s just as conversant on upright bass as on electric). “Because I’ve learned all that stuff, I have the tools and I have the way of playing to make the chemistry between me and Chris just work.”

Gonna Boogie Now extends an impressive winning streak that hit full stride in 2008 with Stop And Think About It. “The first CD was a band CD, the ensemble Chicago thing that we do with harmonica and the full band,” says Chris. “Gonna Boogie Now is more guitar-oriented.”

That unusual dedication to presenting something fresh and exciting every time out, whether on album or onstage, bodes well for the bluesmaking future of Chris James and Patrick Rynn.
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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Louisiana Blues - Chris James

Chris is a solo acoustic guitarist playing slide and fingerpicking blues and original songs. He has played at major folk festivals such as Fylde and Warwick and local festivals such as Solfest and Brampton Live. He has also played many of the Blues festivals such as Burnley, Colne and Dundee. Along the way he has played support to many of the major Blues performers around such as John Mayall, Dr Feelgood and Nine Below Zero, and acoustic acts such as Paul Jones, Boo Hewerdine and Sarah-Lee Guthrie.

“whether picking as tidily as can be or turning in quicksilver slide guitar to perfection, here’s someone who has mastered the craft of making “the blues” very listenable….” Loudon Temple, Maverick Magazine.

“Chris delivered an evening of authentic, raw, acoustic instrumentals and songs. With his warm, charismatic personality and laid back manner, Chris made it all look so easy as he swung into action with a ragtime tune…He is able to draw out an authentic Mississippi Delta sound and has the voice to match…” Review, Penrith ‘Plug and Play’