10 tracks / 39:46
Chris James and Patrick Rynn have enjoyed a long partnership in their musical careers since they met up in Chicago 25 years ago. Though they now live in the San Diego area, there is still a lot of Chicago to be heard in their amazing electric blues sound. Their formula for success is James with the vocals and guitars and Rynn on the bass, which worked just fine for their lengthy stint with Sam Lay, not to mention all the other bands and artists they have worked with over the years.
Though both members of this duo obviously live and breathe the blues, they constantly re-invent their sound, and their latest album on the VizzTone label is a marked change from their previous album, where the limelight was handed over to a cadre of super-talented pianists. Trouble Don’t Last is pared down a bit from what you would get from the usual blues album as there are no keyboards, horns, or hordes of backing singers to be found here. June Core joined the guys on drums and a pair of wonderful harmonica players sat in: long time friend and collaborator Rob Stone, and the San Francisco Bay Area phenom, Aki Kumar. This album includes ten tracks that include six originals written James, Rynn, and Stone, as well as a quartet of pretty cool covers.
This disc was cut in only two days in a Tempe, Arizona studio, but is a fully formed and mature release that will not let their listeners down. This Blues Blast Magazine Award-winning duo kicks things off with an original, “Shameless,” and this rowdy set gets started in a hurry. This original rocking shuffle bemoans the characteristics of folks with no scruples and concludes that some day they are “gonna’ get caught.” Stone’s harmonica takes the lead with James holding down the rhythm line as Core lays heavily into the snare. An extended solo guitar break ties the whole thing together into a neat package.
After the opener, the band launches into a couple of covers: Calvin Frazier’s “Lilly Mae” and “Lonesome Whistle Blues,” which was first recorded by Freddy King in 1961. Both of these are nice and dirty with hearty vocals from Chris James. The latter tune features both Stone and Kumar on harmonica and some sweet vocal harmonies to emulate the aforementioned lonesome whistle.
The other two covers are also killer, the first of which is a respectful take on Robert Curtis Smith’s “Don’t Drive Me Away.” The band kept Smith’s Mississippi background in mind as they modernized the song with a slamming beat and funky bass line, and James lays down a very tasteful guitar solo. The remaining re-do is the closer, Sunnyland Slim’s “Roll, Stumble, and Slip.” This energetic romp again utilizes both harp men, and James’ guitar uses effects to glorious effect. This is the perfect song to close things out, as it is a very strong cut and leaves the listener wanting more.
Though the covers are all very good, the originals are nothing to sniff at either, and they are consistently chock full of clever lyrics and slick musical arrangements. “A Good Idea at the Time” might be the best of the bunch as it starts out sounding like something the Doors would have recorded, and quickly switches into stripped-down hard hitting slow blues that recounts the self-loathing and misery of a man who was put away for driving while intoxicated. The jaunty title track runs a close second place with some wonderful blues harp work from Kumar over the rock steady drum work of June Core.
Chris James and Patrick Rynn’s old fans and their new listeners will get a kick out of Trouble Don’t Last, as their fresh sound and rootsy take on a classic American genre is very compelling. The big question is: what will they do next? The only sure thing is that it will not be like anything they have done before and it will provide plenty of listening pleasure – you can count on it!