BLUES HARP WOMEN
RUF RECORDS 1222
CD 1: HARMONICA GIRL–PAULA RANGELL ROADMASTER–ROXY PERRY HEAVY WATER–STACY JONES BAND DOWN HOME SHAKEDOWN–BIG MAMA THORNTON 32-20 BLUES–LYNNANN HYDE DOWN TO THE HOLLOW–TRINA HAMLIN STOP! WAIT A MINUTE–TRACY K ONE MORE LIE–TERESA “T-BIRD” LYNNE NAUGHTY GIRL–OCTAVIA WHY YOU SO MEAN TO ME–KAT BALOUN AIN’T EASY–BETH KOHNEN STUCK ON YOU–JANE GILLMAN MECHANICAL BEAST–ZOLA MOON PLEASE CALL DADDY–MATTIE PHIFER SADDER THAN SAD–DOROTHY JANE “DJ” GOSPER
CD 2: CASH IS KING–JENNY KERR BLeES GOT ME–CHERYL ARENA LOOKIN’ GOOD–ANNIE RAINES HE’S GONE–MARION TURNER MEET ME WHERE THEY PLAY THE BLUES–TERRY LEONINO CRAZY MAISIE–DANA DIXON EVERYBODY’S DANCING–BEATA KOSSOWSKA TAKE THE LEAD–JILL FROMEWICK NEVER LEAVE ME HOME–DIANA REDLIN SUMMERTIME–CHRISTELLE BERTHON HIT THE ROAD–JUDY RUDIN DOCTOR C–CECILIA LOFORTI RIKERS ISLAND–MARIA COYOTE FAST FOOD MAMA–JACKIE MERRITT BRING IT ON HOME (TO ME)–BIG NANCY RHONDA ALLA BLUE–RHONDA RUCKER
This set came to fruition thanks to the efforts of producer Norman Davis, who played Big Mama Thornton’s “Down Home Shakedown” on his radio show. Big Mama played the whole instrumental on her harp, and Davis began to ponder just how many women harp players were out there. As such, the website hermonicas.com came about, and 200 women players were contacted. Thomas Ruf backed the project, which is this double-CD, “Blues Harp Women.” It showcases thirty-one of the best women harp players on the planet.
The first CD kicks off with the mantra of many a player. Paula Rangell of New Orleans is that “Harmonica Girl,” with “a bag fulla harps and a soul fulla blues!” Cheatin’ men are given their due, also, with the playful “Why You So Mean To Me,” from Kat Baloun, who now resides in Berlin, and Portland, Oregon’s Lynnann Hyde, whose country-blues acoustic version of Mr. Johnson’s “32-20 Blues” is a real beaut. Octavia, from Pennsylvania, gives a cool read of her original, a nod to those women who “always gets what she wants,” a “Naughty Girl with her kinky spice!”
There were a couple that stood out to us, tho. Trina Hamlin’s sanctified “Down To The Hollow” is another fine example of acoustic Delta blues, “goin’ down where the trees meet the soul.” And, CD One closes with Dorothy Jane Gosper wondering why a love ended, leaving her “Sadder Than Sad,” her plaintive, heartfelt vocals as powerful as her harp lines.
CD Two takes a more varied and eclectic look at the players, and their styles and techniques. It is highlighted by three dazzling instrumentals–a live version of “Lookin’ Good” from Annie Raines on harp, with Paul Rishell on call-and-response guitar. Christelle Berthon offers up a breezy “Summertime,” while the CD closes with the country-blues of Rhonda Rucker with “Rhonda Alla Blue.”
Our two favorites were polar opposites. Sweden’s Maria Coyote has a quirky vocal style that is as equally potent as her harp tone, both of which are on full display on a colorful read of Leadbelly’s “Rikers Island.” And, Big Nancy Swarbrick, little known outside her New Jersey home area, really hit a soulful note with a powerhouse take on the Sam Cooke-Lou Rawls classic, “Bring It On Home (To Me).”
Thomas Ruf continues to be one of the most forward-thinking entrepreneurs in contemporary blues with his backing of this well-thought-out project, and producer Norman Davis’ efforts were tireless in the creation of “Blues Harp Women.” Harp fans and blues fans everywhere will love it! Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.