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Jimmy Burns Band - Stuck in the Middle

VelRone Records

13 songs; 54:23 minutes; Suggested

Styles: Blues, Rock and Roll, Country, Pop, Soul, R&B

Why do so many Blues artists perform a disco song – namely The Rolling Stones’s “Miss You”? Perhaps it’s their way of saying, “I am a multi-faceted, multi-talented, all-music loving artist. Sure, I’m in the Blues box, but please don’t lock me up in there!” An example of breaking out of that box, one popular artist has left the Blues on his last two CDs to play other music he likes.

Chicago’s Jimmy Burns (born 1943 in Mississippi) has an impeccable Blues pedigree although his late teens and early 20s years found him growing up on the Near North Side singing Doo-wop, R&B, Folk, and Soul inspired more by Curtis Mayfield than Muddy Waters. In 2001, a true testament to Burns’ Blues came when he appeared on the cover of “Living Blues” magazine (Issue 156) with his brother Eddie Burns above the caption, “The Real Blues Brothers Eddie and Jimmy Burns.” While Eddie landed in Detroit and became a pioneer of electric urban Blues, recording and touring with John Lee Hooker, Jimmy left his native Mississippi for Chicago in 1955. After recording his last Soul record in 1972 (“I Can’t Get Over”), he became a full time family man sitting in only occasionally with bands. By 1996, he was back and into the Blues full time recording his debut on Delmark Records, “Leaving Here Walking.” Today, Burns is one of the most recognized performers in Chicago and regularly hosts the Monday night jam at Buddy Guy’s Legends.

Now, with four Blues CDs behind him, Burns has decided record an album of cover songs like the music he was hearing on the radio in the early 60s – a cornucopia of popular styles. “... I went back to some of what I used to do.... I felt for the most part that this was me,” Burns reveals in the liner notes.

For me, the standout track is “Reach for the Sky” written by friend Felix Reyes in memory of his early 90s Atlanta protégé, Sean Costello. Here, Jimmy sings the lyrics for his recently departed wife of 44 years, Dorothy Burns. Done in a mid-tempo Calypso style, the song features Jimmy on uplifting vocals, co-producer Dave Herrero on guitar, and band member Bryant “T” Parker on congas. Illustrating his deep love of all music, the calypso style is a throw-back to Burns’s teenage days of playing solo on songs like “The Banana Boat Song” at the Fickle Pickle, booked by Mike Bloomfield.

Like early 60s radio, variety abounds on the album: three tracks written by Richard Hamersma, “Early Morning Blues,” “How Close,” and “Incidental Lover,” find Burns providing his patented Soulful vocals over mellow and melodic Bluesy songs with Ariyo Sumito Ariyoshi on killer keyboards. The band Rocks it up on Matt Powell’s “Cadillac” with Dave Herrero on scorching guitar. Surprises “Pop” up when Burns does his own arrangement for the Beatles’s “Get Back” using a borrowed Magic Sam guitar riff. The title track (and cover photo) is a re-work of the 1972 Stealer’s Wheel classic “Stuck in the Middle (With You).”

Jimmy Burns has so much good music inside him that had to come out. Music fans can’t help but be entertained and moved by a singer on a CD this good.

Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL.

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