HARPDOG BROWN: Travelin’ With The Blues
Dog House Records DHR6901 (47:00)
Better Days/ Must Have Been The Devil/ Sacrifice/ Bring It On Home/ Moose On The Loose/ For Better Or Worse/ Fine Little Girl Rag/ Cloud Full Of Rain/ What's Your Real Name/ Facebook Mama/ Home Is Where The Harp Is/ Another Fool Like Me/ Hard Days Blues/ Hayward Boogie
Harpdog Brown is a new name to me, born in 1962, he is an award-winning Canadian vocalist and harmonica player who has been active in Canada's blues scene since 1982. His distinguished musical career was honoured by the Maple Blues Awards in 2014, for harmonica player of the year.
Recorded at Big Jon Atkinson’s studio in California, and Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studio and produced by guitarist/vocalist Little Victor (now currently living in the U.K – check him out – he’s great), Harpdog is backed by a superb guitarist called Jordie Edmonds, a rock solid bassman (Pat Darcus) and a rotating cast of musicians that includes Charlie Musselwhite, Carl Sonny Leyland, Jimmy Morello, Kid Andersen, and Rusty Zinn.
Opening with ‘Better Days’, (penned by Wayne Berezan who has been writing songs for Brown for over two decades), Andersen features on guitar, Brown’s vocal and harp are tough (think James Harman), a great opener! Next up, Otis Spann’s original ‘Must Have Been The Devil’, solo honours go to Jordie Edmonds who plays in that classic old-school style and Brown who blows a smokin’ solo straight out of the Sonny Boy handbook. The tempo is slowed for the blues ballad ‘Sacrifice’, Charlie Musselwhite is featured on harp alongside Brown on the instrumental ‘Moose On The Loose’, while ‘For Better Or Worse’ is a classy Chuck Berry-tinged rock’n’roller.
‘Fine Little Girl Rag’ takes us back in time, it’s an acoustic ragtime-blues featuring Leyland on piano and Atkinson supplies the retro drumming. Out of left field, it’s a fine vocal and harp performance (Brown blows SBW 1 style). ‘Cloud Full Of Rain’ is a tribute to Muddy’s Aristocrat recordings, done as a three-piece with harp/vocal, guitar, and slap bass, they really capture the sound and spirit of Mud’s early recordings. ‘What's Your Real Name’ is a ‘talking’ blues with big toned, Little Walter-styled chromatic harp on the subject of how Harpdog Brown came to be called, obviously, Harpdog Brown.
‘Home Is Where The Harp Is’ has an insinuating Jimmy Reed groove, Rusty Zinn lays down the Eddie Taylor part, ‘Another Fool Like Me’ is one of a handful of covers, penned by Jesse Thomas and originally cut for Elko. Harpdog also does a cracking cover of Muddy’s ‘Hard Days Blues’, again done old-school style, and the CD ends with the instrumental ‘Hayward Boogie’ which is something the musicians came up with at the end of the session.
If you enjoy the music of the aforementioned James Harman, or our own Paul Lamb, then I think you will enjoy this set, all killer, no filler to use a well-worn description.
BETH GARNER: Snake Farm
Music Of Nashville (no number) (27:00)
Another triple threat artist, Beth Garner sings, plays guitar, and wrote or co-wrote six of the seven songs on this release (btw at 27 minutes I think this is the shortest CD I have ever reviewed-barring CD ‘EPs’).
The PR describes her as a ‘Nashville-based roots singer/guitarist’ and that is fair comment. By no means is this a ‘blues’ set, blues influenced with a dash of rock’n’roll, and a splash of country is how I would describe it. However, Beth avoids blues-rock excesses, she is a talented guitarist and possesses a decent set of pipes.
Maybe not my cup of tea, but if this sounds like your kind of thing, www.bethgarner.com is the place to go.
TIM GARTLAND: If You Want A Good Woman
Taste Good Music (no number) (44:00)
Gartland is a triple threat harp player, singer, and songwriter. Originally from Chicago, he is now based in Nashville and this, his third CD, was recorded with some top-notch session players enlisted, including guitarist Tom Britt, and keyboard maestro Kevin McKendree. All material is original.
His material ranges from rootsy, funky rockers to reflective storytelling, all rendered utilising rhythmic grooves. Included are tastes of reggae and Southern flavoured soul, all featuring his honey-toned vocals and harp playing. Highlights include the title track with Wendy Moten assisting on vocals, the funky instrumental ‘Eight Ball’, the quirky ‘Ain’t No Cure For You’, and the Chicago blues (‘Spoonful’-tinged) tribute to Willie Dixon, 'Willie That's Who’.
If you know his work, you’ll want this for sure, others try to listen first.