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Chicago Blues Harmonica Project Featuring the Chicago Bluesmasters (More Rare Gems)

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Album Review

Many blues harmonica summits have been staged in concert settings and recording studios around the world, a popular showcase for the most mobile instrument in all musics. Severn Records head honcho and producer David Earl has organized this collection of six veteran and contemporary figures of the blues harp, mostly lesser-known performers all deserving of a higher profile as they each get two shots apiece to display their wares. The songs are mostly modifications of famous Chicago-style urban electric tunes everybody will recognize, with new lyrics attached. What makes this collection unique is the individual personalities shaping the character of these new blues tunes, revived from the Southside-style with contemporary, updated themes, while sticking with the tried-and-true 12-bar tradition. Each harmonica player is teamed up with a house band, led by guitarists Rick Kreher, Illinois Slim, and Mark "Max" Brumbach. Little Arthur Duncan, who passed away shortly after these sessions, is the most famous of the six, fully exploiting his loose Jimmy Reed-style singing and solid harmonic playing on the Howlin' Wolf-type tune "Can't Stand It No More" and the chooglin'-down-the-road "Gone to Main Street." While Jeff Taylor is revered in blues circles, he's not well-known nationally, but struts his stuff as teamed up with Russ Green during the sweet-home-Chicago-type shuffle "Gangster of Love," telling the tale of cowboys and bad guys from the old west in contemporary terms. Charlie Love's whooshing harp style on the rough-and-tumble "Ooh Baby, Hold Me" and a pissed-off "Twelve Year Old Boy" taking umbrage about an adolescent stealing his girlfriend offers opposite sides of relationship blues. Harmonica Hinds is perhaps the most talented musician, playing hard and fast on "Kill That Mouse" and the stretched-out instrumental jam "Sunday Morning Blues," evoking the influences of Little Walter and Magic Sam alongside Brumbach's excellent piano comping. Big D gives us the slow, slinky plead of "I've Got to Be with You Tonight," and the looser blues love story "Well You Know," while Reginald Cooper brings on the "Wang Dang Doodle"-imaged shuffle "Shade Tree Mechanic" and the slow blues "Give Me Back That Wig" (not the similarly titled Hound Dog Taylor classic). While not a definitive collection, it's a good one, quite representative of the second and third generation of blues harp players roaming the Earth. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Chicago Blues Harmonica Project Featuring the Chicago Bluesmasters (More Rare Gems), Chicago Blues Harmonica Project
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