Wednesday, July 18, 2012

RJ Mischo

Since a few folks reading this blog will also attend the Texas Harmonica Festival and since RJ Mischo will be one of the headliners, I thought that I'd best share my thoughts about RJ's newest release, Make It Good, from Delta Groove Music.

I've been listening to and writing about RJ Mischo's music since his Blue Loon release with Percy Strother back in 1992. I'm pretty sure that I've written reviews on most of what he's recorded since then, and it is quite a body of blues harp blasting work. He's never disappointed the blues loving harp player in me and he certainly ain't starting now.

Make It Good is a particular strong outing and not just for the remarkable talent RJ has with a harp in his mouth, or his sometimes wise ass lyrics, or his solid vocals. He's rounded up one hell of a band with some of best at what they do. How can one go wrong with Wes Starr on drums, Ronnie James Weber on bass, and a couple of real blues "ringers" for guitarists. What could go wrong with current T-Bird slinger Johnny Moeller spitting out licks out of one channel, while ex-T-Birder, Nick Curran's doing the same out of the other. The note vocabulary of this duo is unfathomable and relentless throughout the disc. They bounce leads back and forth like Chinese ping pongers, sometimes blending lead notes together, and slipping in and out of rhythms duties seamlessly. I'd like to know who's slinging what and when, but it really doesn't matter. I want pretend that I know their styles well enough to tell one from the other, but I'd be a liar, because both have chameleonic styles to suit whatever a song demands.

Oh, and then there's Nick Connelly's remarkable organ swells and fleet fingered piano runs punctuating the proceedings all disc long. His presence is noticeable from the "get go" on the opening cut, "Trouble Belt", on which RJ warns each and everyone to stay away from his girl. He pounds the hell out of the 88s on the rawkus tune, which by the way is devoid of harp, while the guitar twins get wound up with some kind of down and dirty tones and start rippin' notes from the fret board. Connelly's organ sets the stage for the instrumental, "The Frozen Pickle", along with RJs fat tone warbles.

There IS a third guitarist lurking about on this disc too, though. RJ included two cuts with what he calls his two man blues band, The Super Reverbs. He and guitarist Jeremy Johnson provide the smoke for the title cut, and Johnson get some down right, low down, funky tones going on with "Make It Good", with RJ providing minimal backing on harp. Drummer Richard Meade is thrown into the two man mix on this one and his heavy handed bombs are integral to the drive of the song. On their second outing on "Up To The Brim", it's Johnson keeping time with bass drum and high hat while slinging his notes around, and RJ lets his dirty, nasty, fat toned, freak flag fly on the instrumental.

RJ tends to always mix things up and keep the harp chops flying with other modes than full on, amped up tones. He does some good time, acoustic, chord heavy whomping on "Papa's S.T. Special", replete with Sonny Terry whooping, but also by tossing in plenty of single note nuggets. His acoustic superiority is on full display on "Not Your Good Man", which kicks off with some dirty Muddy guitar stylings. The tone that comes out of RJ's harp elicits remarkably deep bends. Whoa! Talk about blues with a feeling. I do know that Moeller stabs the hell out of the solo, because RJ calls his name out. He rips it. On "Elevator Juice", RJ drags notes from the bottom of the barrel with a low keyed harp and then swings to some of the best high end playing that I've heard anyone play.

Wes Starr and Ronnie James strut their stuff particularly effectively on the gut bucket shufflin' of "All Over Again". Look no further for a rhythm section operating on all cylinders. They drive the hell out of the tune.
They do the same to the rumba flavored instrumental "Arumbala Part 1" (early in the disc) and "Arumbala Part 2" (the closer), which is a lesson in what ensemble playing is all about. RJ breaks out his chromatic chops, as he and Connelly's organ mix and mingle together.

I don't think that I have enough adverbs, adjectives, or superlatives to describe every harp lick that RJ brings to the table on this CD, not to mention just what the hell Moeller and Curran continuously swap with each other. I'll just say this, "Hell Yeah!". Oh, and get this one.

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