Jimmy Burns
Leaving Here Walking
Delmark 694
While Detroit Eddie Burns moved on to the Motor City and blues stardom, baby brother Jimmy stayed behind in Chicago, to which he had migrated from the family home in the Delta, and where he has resided for the past 40-odd years. Through excursions with doo-wop groups (Medallionaires), sporadic R&B/soul singles and an eventual return to his blues roots, Jimmy Burns has maintained an active, if part-time, musical career while holding down a day job and raising a family. One of the highlights of a visit to Chicago last Spring was hearing Burns play an acoustic set at the Jazz Mart and meeting this gentle and articulate bluesman.

For the past several years Jimmy Burns has played occasional gigs with Rockin' Johnny Burgin and the Lazy Boys, a group of precocious twenty-something young'uns who have been learning and living the blues in West Side clubs, backing blues elders like Burns and Taildragger. It was one of these gigs that attracted Bob Koester and led to this recording. Leaving Here Walking is as much a revelation of Burns' expressive vocal talent as it is of the gifted young guitarist Burgin. It is nothing short of astonishing what this young man has already been able to absorb and translate into his own identity and distinctive voice. Young guitar whizzes abound these days, but this kid is one of the very few who has an instinctive feel.

Leaving Here Walking has a definite retro sense about it, right down to the vintage Chess studio equipment used to record the sessions. Producer Scott Dirks has a reverence and keen grasp of the nuances of the music of his native city that clearly complements the taste and lean of the assembly. Burns' song selection reflects both his love of the music of his youth and a singer's predilection for classic vocal material like Curtis Mayfield's "Gypsy Woman" and Little Willie John's seldom heard "Talk to Me." Both songs are given a tender and evocative interpretation accompanied by Burns' own dead-on lyrical guitar picking.

Other tunes like Tommy McClennan's "Whiskey-Headed Woman," Mercy Dee's "One Room Country Shack," "Rollin' and Tumblin'," "Catfish Blues" and Sonny Boy I's "Shake Your Boogie" are given a respectfully traditional treatment in the classic '50s Chicago style. Jimmy Burns also contributes several original tunes highlighted by the title track, a variation on one of the quintessential blues themes.

There's nothing earthshaking here, just the chance for a talented singer to express his blues and a bunch of kids with the exceptional ability to create the appropriate mood and backing. It's doubtful that this music will garner the same kind of sales experienced by the bevy of current teenage blues wunderkinds. Too bad; it would be nice to think that for once the real thing would get rewarded.

-- Jack Oudiz

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Boulder, CO, USA.