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Past Life Blues

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Album Review

Rooted firmly in the Little Walter and William Clarke school of overdriven, usually amplified harmonica, Steve Guyger blasts through 14 tracks of sturdy Chicago-styled blues. The former touring bandmember for Jimmy Rogers tears into these predominantly self-penned tunes with the fervor of the best postwar bluesmen, blowing with precision, intensity, and emotion. The tracks crackle with energy, whether they are in a slower tempo or more upbeat. Guyger exudes a smoky, everyman voice that won't win any awards, yet works well with this material. But it's his gutsy harp, tight band, and imaginative arrangements that drive this album. From the John Lee Hooker vibe of "Rib Shack Boogie" (one of three newly added tracks) to the slow, ominous swamp crawl of the instrumental "Snake Oil" and the noir jazz of "Monkey on a Limb," Guyger shifts moods and styles while maintaining a tough, moody attack. His playing on the playful "Somethin's Smellin' Good (At My Baby's House)" is heavily reminiscent of Kim Wilson's best work. Swinging drummer Joe Maher, leader of labelmate Big Joe & the Dynaflows, contributes skin work, but it's his production that shines here. Each instrument is crisply recorded, and the songs breathe no matter how fiercely Guyger blows. The album is essential listening for harmonica fans, and a real find for any serious lover of Chicago blues.

Past Life Blues, Steve Guyger
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