Remembering Little Walter review May 7, 2013…

VARIOUS ARTISTS

REMEMBERING LITTLE WALTER

BLIND PIG RECORDS  BPCD  5154

I GOT TO GO–MARK HUMMEL  JUST A FEELING–CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE  YOU’RE SO FINE–BILLY BOY ARNOLD  IT’S TOO LATE BROTHER–JAMES HARMAN  MEAN OLD WORLD–SUGAR RAY NORCIA  ONE OF THESE MORNINGS–CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE  BLUE LIGHT–MARK HUMMEL  CRAZY MIXED UP WORLD–JAMES HARMAN  UP THE LINE–SUGAR RAY NORCIA  CAN’T HOLD OUT MUCH LONGER–BILLY BOY ARNOLD  MY BABE (FINALE)

There is not one post-WWII blues harp player that doesn’t owe a huge debt of gratitude to the legenday Marion “Little Walter” Jacobs.  His incredible tone, power, and phrasing fused the country blues of his native Mississippi with the uptown swing of the jazz saxophone players, taking the harp to new heights.  His seminal sides for Chess with Muddy and on his own set the standard that all harpmen aspire to attain.

West Coast harp master Mark Hummel has hosted what has become known as “Blues Harmonica Blowouts,” in which today’s best players get together for a harp-fueled good time.  In the past, Mark has brought together the likes of Cotton, Carey Bell, Lazy Lester, and just about all the greats that are still out there blowin’ the blues.

 

This year, Mark got four more harp heavyweights to join him in a tribute to Little Walter, recorded at Anthology in San Diego.  The set has just been released by Blind Pig as “Remembering Little Walter.”  Along with Mark, we also have James Harman, Sugar Ray Norcia, Billy Boy Arnold, and Charlie Musselwhite.  All these greats were influenced by Walter, and Billy Boy and Charlie both played with him and called him friend.

The music is outstanding, as one would imagine.  They are all backed by Little Charlie Baty and Nathan James on guitar, June Core on drums, and R. W. Grigsby on bass.  Every cut is a classic, and each man plays with the intensity and verve ol’ Walter would’ve been proud of.  Check out the emotion in Charlie’s voice as he brings home the slow-burn of “Just A Feeling,” and Mark’s phrasing and tone on the minor-key instrumental, “Blue Light.”  James Harman’s swingin’ vocals drive “Crazy Mixed Up World,” and the rather obscure “It’s Too Late Brother.”  Billy Boy Arnold gives an authentic read of “You’re So Fine,” then plays one of his personal Walter favorites, “Can’t Hold Out Much Longer.”  Sugar Ray’s years with Ronnie Earl and also with Roomful Of Blues show up in his jumped-up “Up The Line,” while all of ’em take passionate solos in the finale, “My Babe.”

The five men present on this album represent an aggregate of more than two hundred years combined of playing the blues harp professionally.  Each had his own unique connection to Jacobs, and “Remembering Little Walter”  is not only a great blues history lesson, but a stirring tribute to a legend.  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.

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