Jim Byrnes turns Athabasca blue


Soulful blues singer visits Athabasca United Church for third concert in Heartwood Folk Club's 20th fall season

The third concert of the Heartwood Folk Club’s 20th fall season brought the Juno award winning blues singer and guitarist Jim Byrnes to the Athabasca United Church Nov. 1.

More than 100 people showed up from around the region to hear the American-turned-Canadian’s tunes, which he played alongside Canadian musician and songwriter Lindsay Mitchell.

Heartwood artistic director Peter Opryshko said he was impressed with the size of the crowd, especially considering the cold and snowy weather that day. He also noted that the Nancy Appleby Theatre was not available on the night of the show.

“It was great to have the church,” he said, adding that the show was a little different than the usual Heartwood folk music show. “The audience was up for it. They liked it, and I think they responded well, responded back to it. I thought it went well. There was quite a few good compliments.”

Byrnes said he flew in from Vancouver the day of the show and he thought the venue was wonderful.

“I love being in a church, and the way things sound,” he said. “It’s great.”

Byrnes’ music included his own songs as well as a cover each from Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan played “Shape I’m In” from his not-yet-released album, too.

“A lot of this, this was stuff we’ve been doing for years,” he said. “We’re always trying to do something new.”

He also said he had toured the Northwest Territories and British Columbia, and appreciates shows in small towns.

“I love coming to these places,” he said. “They’re real people from the real world.”

Opryshko said Heartwood shows have a “giant kitchen party” feel to them, and after 20 years, people who attend the shows know one another.

“To me, it’s good to have a good group of people that appreciate good music,” he said. “People don’t realize, first of all, what a great facility they have. And they also don’t realize that the performers that perform, are high calibre. The same people may perform in Edmonton in a much less welcoming venue. Often, it’s a big hall.”

The next Heartwood show is Cam Neufeld and Gadjo Collective, set for Nov. 18 at 7:30 p.m.

Opryshko said next season’s lineup is almost complete, though they are waiting on a few callbacks.


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Allendria Brunjes

Allendria is the publisher of the Athabasca Advocate.