I'm going to throw out some lesser known (some becoming well known now) blues harp players that may have flown under your radar, but are all worth hearing. These are brief snippets, so I'm not going to keep searching for another new term to describe their nasty fat toned playing. Anyone reading along with me for any length of time probably knows what I like by now. So here's some that you may have missed and maybe can't find (some of them, I had quite a time tracking them down). In some cases, I have multiple releases by some of these guys, but I'll just stick up one from a label that may still be around. Here goes:
1. Mitch Kashmar/Wake Up and Worry--Delta Groove Productions: I know. He's getting to be pretty well known now, but when I first heard about him the only release was a Little Walter tribute called Crazy Mixed Up World and it wasn't easy to find.
2. Paul Orta/Don't Mess With Mezcal--Red Lightnin': The copy I have was released on this English label. The Tex Mex Bluesman spends a great part of his year overseas and has put out a catalog that has been frustratingly difficult to get in hand. I've written off to German musicians to see if I could get a copy of what he recorded with them (ex: Cool Step, which is great). Paul was doing it in Austin way before anyone else. When he makes it back to his hometown of Port Arthur, the Great Recordings label does entice him into a studio.
3. Lynwood Slim/Lost In America--Atomic Theory: Lynwood apparently has been a very influential harp man on Mid-Western Americans. I know that RJ Mischo points to him as someone who got him on the right tonal track. This release has a couple of my favorite guitar slingers--Junior Watson and Kid Ramos.
4. Greg "Fingers" Taylor/Hi Fi Baby--Warehouse Creek Recording: I know, I know, everyone knows that he's Jimmy Buffett's harp playing buddy and a founding member of the Coral Reefer Band and that he puts down some great blues lick chops...just in case, though, remember? His blues harp has graced a number of other artists' albums over the years. Harpoon Man is a good release to get, but I love the amp tones on this one. Kim Wilson helped produce it and plays on a couple of cuts. I don't know how in the heck they botched Fingers' vocals, but I've heard him sing great live and they failed to capture that. Otherwise--fat toned greasy...never mind.
5. Walter T Higgs/Just A Few Miles To Go--Doc Blues Records: A stable mate of Sonny Boy Terry's, Walter T Higgs is a hoot. Matter of fact, it was at one of Sonny Boy's harp blowouts that I heard his talent for the first time and he was impressive. He hails from the same area of the Texas Gulf Coast that Paul Orta came from. I think maybe the air from the plethora of chemical plants has something to do with spawning some great bluesmen or maybe they just figured that they should follow Clifford Antone out of there. Twelve really nice tracks of originals done up by an original.
6. Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish/In Action--Self Release (I Think): Johnny's one of those guys that is content with staying put and off the road. Pretty sure that he mostly just hangs in the Martha's Vineyards area and treats the locals and the tourist to some mighty fine harp playing and he may lay brick for them the next morning. His is not a new name on the horizon by a long shot and he had a couple of releases out there on a more major label, but I think he's content to do things his way. This release debuts guitarist Paul Size as a Bluefish. His playing on Lester Butler's Red Devil's King King live album highly impressed me.
7. Wallace Coleman/Wallace Coleman--Fishhead Records: I first heard Wallace Coleman in a video featuring Robert Jr Lockwood's band and knew nothing about him, so...I had to find out. Lockwood has gone on record as saying that he'd prefer not playing with a harp player (he who helped make Little Walter's releases swing), so Coleman had to be someone special. Coleman spent most of his career on his day job raising a family. I'm pretty sure that Fishhead Records is his own label. He has that authentic old school touch in his playing.
8. Rob Stone and the C Notes/No Worries--Marquis Records--Stone hangs out mostly in the Chicago area and he keeps that style alive and kicking. Tourist can at least go and hear someone in the city playing blues harp the way it's suppose to be played. A couple of cats that I posted about recently and who are making a name for themselves, Patrick Rynn and Chris James, were members of the C Notes back then. Stone has stepped up to the more major Earwig Records label since this was released.
9. Lee McBee/Soul Deep--Pacific Blues Recording: I might have mentioned McBee somewhere, if I haven't then it's a huge oversight on my part. He's a killer diller harp man and he can flat sing his ass off. He's not woefully under recorded, because he led Mike Morgan's Crawl band through quite a number of releases. This, though, is only one of two recordings that I know of under his own name. The other is 44 and may be more readily available now, but I think I had to get it overseas at a premium price. I think I actually e-mailed Lee for a copy and he didn't even have one to sell.
10. Andy Santana & The West Coast Playboys/Swingin'Rockin'Jumpin'&Jivin': The title says it all, because Andy and the boys do all that on this one. The West Coast Playboys on this go 'round include Junior Watson, Coco Montoya and Rusty Zinn bending strings for us. How can you go wrong with that.
11. Reverend Raven/Featuring Madison Slim Live At Blues On Grand--Nevermore Records: Madison Slim is another one of those cats that can play his butt off doing the real deal, but prefers to stay off the road. Hey, if I could hang out with a band called Reverend Raven and the Chainsmoking Altar Boys, I wouldn't leave town either. Impressive harp chops.
12. Bill Rhoades & The Party Kings/Voodoo Lovin'--White Owl Records: Everyone living in the Pacific Northwest who listens to blues music, knows Bill Rhoades. He's a mover and shaker in the blues scene there (which by the way, is enviously active) and has been plying his trade for quite sometime, so he knows his way around the block.
13. The Matthew Skoller Band/These Kind of Blues--Tongue 'N Groove Records: Skoller doesn't adhere strictly to a blues format here, but he stays close enough to interest me. He employs some inventive licks along the way and writes songs hooked with messages for the masses.
14. Pat Ramsey/Johnny Winters' White, Hot & Blue--Yeah, this ain't his album, it's Johnny's, but I think it is a great example of Ramsey's playing. He was a young pup when Winters tapped him to play on this return to the blues and he had no preconceived notion as to what to put into the songs, because he hadn't listen to the blues harp masters. Winters had to show him how a Jimmy Reed song was suppose to be played and was a bit taken aback when Ramsey hadn't really heard of him. So, don't expect Big Walter licks on Walking By Myself--it is all Pat Ramsey making it up. Stephen Schneider sent me a copy of this way-out-of -print release a few years back. I hear that it can be had again, so go get it.
15. Jerry McCain/That's What They Want--Excello: If you don't know Jerry McCain's Steady by now, then, where the hell have you been? No, seriously, Steady is up there with Little Walter's Juke as a must hear, learn, play blues harp instrumental. Maybe the only song that you've heard of McCain's or the T-Bird's doing Tuff Enough. Ding Dong Daddy was one of Gary Primich's favorite covers from McCain's catalog and you need to here it from the source on this compilation of the best of Jerry McCain's Excello numbers. If you've heard Ding Dong Daddy, then you also know that it ain't blues, but is a rocking little number which is more the norm on this collection. It's rough and tough (don't look for Tuff Enough because it ain't here) music that's in the raw and may not suit everyone, but it is all fun.
16. Al Miller Chicago Blues Band/...In Between Time--Self Release: I hadn't heard of Al Miller prior to this release and I haven't heard of him since, but anyone that can get John Primer, Billy Flynn and Dave Specter in a studio with them, is alright in my book.
17. Good Rockin' Charles/Good Rockin' Charles--Mr. Blues: Apparently Charles Edwards was a reluctant studio musician and when he didn't show for a Jimmy Roger's session, then the story goes that Big Walter stepped in and recorded the classic licks for Walking By Myself. Charles puts don't a solid style on this collections of covers that would be considered overdone chestnuts, but they weren't back then.
As of May 30, 2008, I retired as a high school teacher with 29 years of sharing my knowledge of journalism, English, and world geography with Texas teenagers and eventually some of their kids (including three of my own).
This blog will provide a piece of the answer to the question I've been asked for the millionth time, "Well, what are you going to do now?"
#1 Son, John Bush, designed the title artwork several years ago and it is remarkably appropriate for this blog. Try this as a contact e-mail: rkbush51 at att dot net.