The Norman Transcript

October 11, 2013

Music review: Chris James and Patrick Rynn release rollicking CD

By Doug Hill
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Musician: Chris James and Patrick Rynn

Album name: Barrelhouse Stomp (2013, Earwig Music Co.)

Why you should listen: This is rollicking music that lives up to the album title. The San Diego duo consisting of vocalist Chris James and bassist Patrick Rynn brought together 11 other musicians for a tribute to Chicago-style piano pounding and gin joint jive. Mostly recorded 2009-2011 in the Windy City and Tempe, Ariz,. it’s a collection of 12 swinging tracks. There’s not a bad banana in the bunch. They’re about half originals and the rest jump blues standards.

Willie “Big Eyes” Smith who plays skins on a couple of cuts here has since gone on to the big band stand in the sky. James’ loud and clear vocals are front and center on every song. Each one also has piano lines with duty divided among Aaron Moore, Henry Gray and David Maxwell.

Listening to this album conjures up the days when barrelhouse style got its name. Liquor flowed as a guy beat the ivories for all he was worth.

“I Feel so Good” starts with Jonny Viau wailing on tenor saxophone and he doesn’t give it a rest all the way through. James sings that he feels so good that he’s ready to “ball the jack.” Consultation of a handy hipster dictionary found that could be “to move fast,” “have sex” or “have a wild time, get real gone.” James makes it sound like all three.

“Take it Easy” is a tribute to the late piano pounder Pinetop Perkins. David Maxwell assumes the responsibility with gusto, attacking his keys like a maniac. This disc has loads of shout-outs including Bo Diddley homage “Messin’ with White Lightnin’.” The lowdown and dirty speakeasy theme gets its send-out with “Last Call Woogie” (“…You gotta go cuz you can’t stay here.”) Get “Barrelhouse Stomp” and you won’t ever have to leave this rocking joint.