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Album Review

Corey Harris takes a decidedly anthropological and academic approach to the blues, deeply researching its variants and origins, even making several trips to Africa to trace out its DNA (resulting in the marvelous Mississippi to Mali), but even as Harris thinks and connects dots like a scholar, when he gets down to playing the songs, he's all musician, and that leads him to create some wonderful hybrids, and he seems to have settled down lately with a sound that seems more Jamaican than anything else. Blu. Black starts with the lovely "Blue" and ends with a juke joint blues called "Black," so it's obvious what terrain Harris is mapping out here, but in between he gently works in some Americanized roots reggae, some quiet storm-type ballads, and odds and ends of other Afro-matrixed musical ephemera, and amazingly, he does it with a calm, assured, and extremely positive voice that is as welcome as it is vital. One hesitates to call this stuff blues, although it certainly is blues-informed (but then so is 99 percent of what you hear on the radio, really). A winning singer with an easy charm, Harris shines here on songs (most of them were co-written with keyboardist and producer Chris "Peanut" Whitley) like "King and Queen" (a duet with Davina Jackson), the straight-out-of-Kingston-sounding "Conquering Lion," the sunny skanking "Run Around Girl," and a moving, stark solo version of Burning Spear's "Columbus." It all goes down easy, and Harris' naturally positive tone makes this album yet another treat from this gifted musician.


Born: February 21, 1969 in Denver, CO

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Corey Harris has earned substantial critical acclaim as one of the few contemporary bluesmen able to channel the raw, direct emotion of acoustic Delta blues without coming off as an authenticity-obsessed historian. Although he is well versed in the early history of blues guitar, he's no well-mannered preservationist, mixing a considerable variety of influences -- from New Orleans to the Caribbean to Africa -- into his richly expressive music. In doing so, he's managed to appeal to a wide spectrum...
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Blu.Black, Corey Harris
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