Chris Shutters with special guest Jimmy Burns – Good Gone Bad
Third Street Cigar Records – 2019
10 tracks; 39 minutes
Chris Shutters is a guitar player from Toledo, Ohio, who, as well as fronting his own band, holds down the guitar slot in Corky Laing’s Mountain. This album has a great backstory. At a loose end on a Monday in Chicago, Chris dropped into Buddy Guy’s Legends and found Jimmy Burns running the jam (as he continues to do every other week). Chris was delighted as he had heard Jimmy’s music via his father, so he signed up to jam. When his turn came Jimmy asked Chris to stay up as he was enjoying his playing. The pair got along well, chatted and exchanged phone numbers but neither really thought any more about it until Chris recalled the evening some ten years later and rang Jimmy to have a chat. That chat developed into the idea of an album project and Jimmy then traveled to Toledo to record with Chris. Jimmy proposed re-recording three songs from across his Delmark releases and Chris had seven songs available, including one he wrote with Jimmy in mind. The two share lead guitar and vocals, Jimmy singing on four and Chris on six. Joining them in the studio are sax player Art Bishop, harmonica player Tony Shutters, bassist Frank May and drummers Danny Jahns and Byron Harris Jr (who also plays bass on four cuts). Rick Warner (Rare Earth) plays keys on two tracks and Mike Huffman on one. Chris also fills in on drums, bass and even flute on one track!
Chris’ songs start with the title track which opens the album at a frantic pace with Tony’s harp and Rick’s piano rocking along, Chris and Jimmy sharing vocals and guitar leads on this one. A key track is “Can’t Play The Blues Like B.B.” which recounts Chris’ earliest encounter with B.B. King who advised Chris to get some more experience of life before he could really play the blues. It’s a strong song with solid vocals, searing guitar and a good hook and a complimentary comment at the end from Jimmy who can be heard saying “it sounds good”! “Keep You Satisfied” is an upbeat tune with Tony’s harp upping the blues quotient. The other three of Chris’ songs are less blues-related: “Unwind” is a rocker with a chorus that harks back to 80’s bands like Foreigner, “Living In A Dream” has lots of wah-wah guitar and Hendrix references and “The Book Of Life” is a strange ending to the album, a country riff at its core with flute and high register backing vocals (all done by Chris).
Chris also contributed “Poor Boy Blue” for Jimmy to sing, Chris on acoustic providing the central riff which is overlaid by both picking on electric guitar in a gentle semi-acoustic country blues. Jimmy’s three songs are all excellent: “Stop The Train” has a great rhythm with Jimmy’s picking well up in the mix, Chris’ fleet-fingered solo fitting in perfectly alongside; even better is “Miss Annie Lou”, a track originally on Jimmy’s debut Delmark release Leaving Here Walking in 1996, which is given a superb reading here with the easy exchange of guitar work in the middle surrounded by an easy groove and lovely sax and harp support; “No Consideration” also has the harp on a blues with Jimmy’s anguished vocals as he bemoans how his girl mistreats him. Jimmy’s originals are each over five minutes long and therefore, with “Poor Boy Blue”, make up almost exactly half the album, so this is a very well balanced collaboration between the two.
There is plenty to enjoy here and it is an interesting collaboration between two musicians of very different ages but who share an enthusiasm for the blues. Not all the songs are quite this reviewer’s thing but the range of material should ensure that everyone will find something to enjoy here.