Chris James & Patrick Rynn‘s second CD, Gonna Boogie Anyway, is here and it has swept me off my feet. It’s solid, bold, and sexy. Its swagger is confident, not cocky, and that self-assuredness is what clinches the deal. The sexiness is surprising, too, because you don’t necessarily expect their steady and solid approach to carry that much sex appeal. Yet it does. James and Rynn? They’re powerful and mesmerizing.
"Money Don’t Like Me” starts the party and it’s a strong, yet playful tune. James’ assertive vocals and clever lyrics tell a story to which we can all relate — as hard as we work for it, money just ain’t stickin’ around. Times are tight and so is this arrangement. They follow the opening track with a bouncy and shakin’ "Dearest Darling” that’s sure to get you dancing. Bo Diddley would be proud. Both songs cement the band’s swinging and rhythmic presence that serves as the continuance of their first CD’s vibe, but it’s on the third track, "Can’t Trust Nobody," that the pair shake things up. Even without the full band, Rynn and James bring it with an undeniable authority. The cutting lyrics are more powerful because of the spare presentation. With a few well-chosen words and a look, you know you’re in trouble. One listen and you know you don’t want to be the one to anger these two. The tune carries the same confident strut as other songs on the album, but it’s delivered more as a subtle warning than an overt threat.
And that’s the thing about this entire CD: nowhere are you knocked upside the head with "aren’t we great?” aggression. Instead, you’re lured in with solid songwriting and musical prowess that makes you a believer in James and Rynn’s ability to deliver the goods. It’s what makes the album sexy. It’s why you end up grinning from ear to ear as you head out the door satisfied; there’s no shame, no guilt here. You love the music and you’re happy to let everyone know it. It’s less Christopher Walken as The Continental and more Cary Grant as, well, just about any one of his romantic comedy characters. A shy, elegant confidence permeates every note played and sung.
Included amongst their originals, Robert Jr. Lockwood, Bo Diddley, and Jimmy Reed tunes find their place and are given their proper due. While not exact copies, "Black Spider Blues," "Dearest Darling," "Little Girl," and "Can’t Stand To See You Go” represent some of the duo’s favorite influences and continue a story of joy, heartbreak, and determination evident in their originals. It’s evident that each song was chosen to cast a certain mood, to draw the listener into the overall experience. It’s a seamless transition between original material and that from other artists, though if you weren’t in the know about which is which, you’d have a difficult time trying to pick them out. That’s how authentic these blues are. The greatest tunes, however, are those written by James, Rynn, and writing/performing partner Rob Stone (appearing on harmonica on tracks 2, 7, and 9). Most powerful are "Money Don’t Like Me," "You Can’t Trust Nobody," "Headed Out West” (the structure of which is very literary), and the title track "Gonna Boogie Anyway”. "Gonna Boogie” should be everyone’s theme song. No matter what happens in life, no matter the obstacles or pressures, you gotta pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and boogie like there’s no tomorrow! At the very least, you have a little fun before you stumble again; and who amongst us couldn’t stand more happiness in life?
Life isn’t fair, but with a CD like this in your collection, you almost don’t care. Chris and Patrick give voice to all the moments in our lives — the good and bad — and suddenly you’re not alone any longer. You have two great dance partners willing to whirl you across the floor, away from your troubles for a while.
Where Stop And Think About It left off, Gonna Boogie Anyway picks up and romances you all over again. The difference, of course, is the inclusion of tunes that don’t feature a backing band. Chris and Patrick are just as comfortable and accomplished with country/Delta blues as they are with the fuller Chicago sound. Forget gimmicky outfits and banter, the duo imbue their music with a classic sense of storytelling and musicianship. They’ve learned from the masters and they put those lessons to work. They’re smooth, effortless, and genuine. And in the end, isn’t that what you expect from the blues?
Chris James photo by Joan Hunt