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October/November 2015
 

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Chris James and Patrick Rynn
Trouble Don't Last
Vizztone Records

Chirs James - Patrick Rynn

It's hard to believe that Chris James and Patrick Rynn have been playing together for the better part of 25 years now, but they have. Fans of the postwar (WW II) blues heard in Chicago back in the day, Chris and Patrick have stayed true to their root. Their first release on Vizztone, Trouble Don't Last, represents their attempt to create a straight ahead, downhome record. Trouble Don't Last is visceral and raw as well as a great listen.

They open with an original tune, "Shameless," and Rob Stone joins them on harmonica for this tune while June Core holds down the pots and pans. Chris's guitar leads the way as he comments on folks that have a tendency to take themselves too seriously. "Shameless....so shameless...wonder if they'll ever get caught." A number of folks can be found putting on airs and pretending to be far more than they ever were. And if they get caught, they're "shameless" enough to let it fall off their backs. Rob's blowing an awesome harp fill here and we're off and running. Next up is a tune attributed to Detroit guitarist Calvin Frazier, "Lily Mae," and it's a song that comments on a man who done treated a woman wrong. "Oh, Lily Mae...what evil have I done? You know I think about you, Lily Mae... every time I see the rising sun." Chris's vocals are spot on and Rob is leading the way with an incendiary harp fill.

Chris and Patrick segue in to a Freddy King tune next, "Lonesome Whistle Blues," and it's one of the first tunes Chris learned as a kid growing up. Freddy King was one of Chris's earliest guitar influences and the band more than does justice to this tune. "Yes...along around midnight...when I heard that lonesome cannonball...I'm going to find you baby...if it takes my whole life...to track you down." Chris's fretwork is frenetic on this tune and it's easy to hear just how much influence Freddy King has on this bluesman.

Our next track, "Going Down to the Ocean," features Patrick's bass providing the intro, and it's his homage to the Griswold brothers he played with back in the day in his hometown of Toledo. "I'm tired of these old blues...blues...stop dogging me...going to set myself...head out...on the open sea." A song he's had in his back pocket for awhile, Patrick is happy to finally get this one recorded and out on a record. The title track, "Trouble Don't Last," is one that Chris has been hanging onto for awhile and it was originally conceived as an exercise to teach himself finger picking on the guitar. Aki Kumar joins Rob on harmonica for this song and the double harp effect is everything Chris was hoping for. I like the old time feel of this tune as Chris sings, "Yes...I gave her a home...and she mortgaged my soul...the price that I paid...sure has taken a toll...now, what you're going to do with a woman like that." The best thing to do Chris is pack up your things and hit the road if she's going to treat you that way.

"Don't Drive Me Away" is another classic tune from Chris's childhood, one that he first heard on a Arhoolie album that his mom gave him back in the day. "I love you baby...I'll do you no wrong...Come on, baby...let's go home...if you love me...hear my plea...don't put me out...in the streets...I cried please...don't drive me away." Chris and Patrick have made some really astute song choices for this record, and the end result is every bit as stripped down and raw as they hoped it would be. Our next cut, the instrumental "Steady Goin' On," plays off a quote from one of Chris and Patrick's late friends, bassist Dave Myers of the Aces. The vibe of the track definitely pays tribute to Dave's favorite saying, "Man, They've got that steady going on." Well done, guys! Dave would definitely be proud of the arrangement that grew out of an idea he gave you.

Chris and the band slow the tempo way down on our next track, "Good Idea At the Time," and here we find Chris telling us about a man having a really bad day. "Sitting here in jail...I didn't commit no hanging crime...no one to blame but myself...so, I'll just have to do the time...I don't know why I did it...seemed like a good idea at the time." Rob's blowing a particularly mournful harp fill here and it's apparent that the man in jail is truly regretting the outcome of his actions. Aki takes over the harp duties for our next track, "Hard to Keep a Dollar," and that's something we're all aware of. Chris is well exposed to all of the temptations present when a man has some money in his pocket and he's well served to try and keep some of it if he can. "I need money...cause ain't nothing cheap...I need money...I can't get no relief...my paycheck's getting smaller....it's so hard to keep a dollar."

The disc's final track, "Roll, Stumble and Slip," is based on Sunnyland Slim's version of the song and the band is back in high gear one more time. Chris's picking is spot on and I can hear Patrick's bass working with June to hold down the back end. "Lord, you've been my mistreater...ever since you've been at my door." Chris calls in Aki for a harp fill and finishes the song off with his vocal "I roll and tumble...cried the whole night long...I woke up this morning...didn't know right from wrong." We've all had days like that, and Chris, Patrick and the band definitely finish off Trouble Don't Last on a high note.

Trouble Don't Last is Chris and Patrick's first disc for Vizztone, and they've definitely accomplished their goal of recording a stripped down record that is in keeping with their Blues roots. June Core and Rob Stone round out their regular band, while the addition of Aki Kumar's harmonica skills to the mix allow Chris and Patrick to pick and choose when to add a second harmonica to a song's arrangement.

Their website is ChrisJamesandPatrickRynn.com, and that's a good place to pick up a copy of Trouble Don't Last while checking out the band's performing schedule. We don't hear a lot of postwar Chicago styled blues much anymore, and Chris James and Patrick Rynn are two of the best at exploring and maintaining those traditions.

--- Kyle Deibler

 

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