The Blue Four: Keeping Your Sound "Authentic" to True Blues
With two critically hailed CDs of their own and two full decades of playing together honing their musical attack to a diamond-hard edge, San Diego–based guitarist Chris James and bassist Patrick Rynn are at the forefront of today's traditional blues movement. Gonna Boogie Now, their recent album for Earwig Records, has stirred up a similarly heightened level of critical buzz as their 2008 disc Stop and Think About It, which was nominated for a Blues Music Award and won a Blues Blast Award for Best New Artist Debut.
The duo's high-energy approach is deeply rooted in the postwar sound—Chicago, Memphis, Mississippi Delta—yet incorporates a singular spin. Their repertoire is loaded with splendid, well-crafted originals. James and Rynn inaugurated their musical partnership in 1990, when both young bluesmen were living in Chicago for the first time. The sartorially splendiferous duo has been inseparable ever since, their telepathic onstage interplay always in dazzling evidence.
Born in North Carolina but raised in the warm and sunny climes of San Diego, James got hooked on the blues early, joining the band of guitarist Tomcat Courtney as a 13-year-old harpist. He soon switched to bass, then guitar, soaking up every nuance of the genre from each master he encountered.
Rynn hails from Toledo, Ohio and learned the bass in a high school jazz orchestra before a chance encounter with an Elmore James cassette forever changed his musical journey. A five-year gig with local blues heroes Art and Roman Griswold soon ensued.
The pair met in Chicago and started working together, James showing Rynn the finer points of traditional blues until they thought as one. Their first major break came when drummer Sam Lay asked both of them to join his band, a gig that lasted for half a decade. There they encountered young harpist Rob Stone, the threesome developing a keen musical chemistry that endures to this day. Back in Chicago, the trio formed a new combo, the C-Notes, and cut a debut CD, No Worries, in 1998. Just My Luck, the band's encore release, emerged on Earwig in 2003. That musical partnership is still going strong; the three write all of their original material together and appear on one another's CDs (James and Rynn are prominent on Rob's latest Earwig disc, Back Around Here). Along the way, James and Rynn have worked with many of the greatest postwar bluesmen still active. They were close to Dave Myers, the late bassist of the Aces, toured worldwide and recorded as the backing band for over four years with guitarist Jody Williams (they're on his '04 disc You Left Me in the Dark), and backed pianist Dennis Binder on his 2007 album Hole in That Jug. They've made several recordings with a variety of blues luminaries, toured Europe, Japan, Canada, as well as the United States, and appeared in the Martin Scorsese–produced PBS film documentary Godfathers and Sons. Particularly noteworthy was Rynn's 2010 Blues Music Award nomination as Best Blues Bassist.
Gonna Boogie Now is a hard-hitting collection with a spectacular lineup of guest stars. Pianists Henry Gray and David Maxwell and drummers Sam Lay and Willie Hayes helped James and Rynn cook up an encore outing sure to delight any traditional electric blues fan. Like its predecessor, the critically lauded CD has been high on the Living Blues Radio Charts in recent months, making it clear that this traditionally rooted duo will be playing their sizzling brand of blues for a long time to come.