There are a number of today’s top practitioners of blues harmonica on the second volume of Blues Hap Meltdown: East Meets West Live at Moe’s Alley on Mountain Top. Recorded at the annual blues harp tour that Mark Hummel puts together, this recording features RJ Mischo, Gary Smith, Frank Goldwasser (aka Paris Slim), Mark Hummel, Paul Rishell & Annie Raines, Johnny Dyer and Gary Primich.
The two discs present over two hours of music that is often exceptional. Most of the performances might be described as in the West Coast jump vein, a mix of post war Chicago blues with jump blues rhythms and guitar seasoning that is associated with such artists as Rod Piazza and the late Hollywood Fats. The backing is provided by Hummel’s band, The Blues Survivors with Paris Slim and Paul Rishell each guesting on guitar on several tracks.
There’s plenty of muscular harp from the participants. RJ Mischo starts things off with Telephone Blues before Gary Smith, veteran of the San Francisco Bay blues scene, contributes the moody You Can’t Hurt Me No More and a rocking reworking of Little Walter’s It Ain’t Right, with Frank Goldwasser adding nice guitar. Goldwasser plays harp and sings Junior Parker’s All These Blues followed by Hummel on the Moon Mullican rocker, Seven Nights to Rock and I’m Gone. Paul Rishell laying down strong Elmore James flavored slide on this latter tune. With Annie Raines on harp, Paul revives a nice swamp blues, Nothing But the Devil to close out the first disc. Annie handles a couple vocals with the lyrics of Little Dog being amusing, and has a outstanding instrumental Annie’s Rocker. Johnny Dyer handles classic blues from Muddy Waters, J.B. Lenoir and Little Walter with a bit more down home vocal style before Gary Primich closes this two-disc set with a mix of originals and Smiley Lewis songs.
Overall some consistently very good blues to be heard on this. I understand Cephas and Wiggins were among those who performed at this year’s blues harp meltdown earlier this year which hopefully will be documented by a Volume 3.
In fact Cephas and Wiggins were among those on the third volume in this series by Hummel for which I did a short review as follows:
Cephas & Wiggins also heard on Blues Harp Meltdown Vol.3 Legends (Mountain Top), the third cd documenting Mark Hummel’s annual tour of harp masters. Recorded in January 2004, Hummel brought to the tour guitarist Steve Freund, drummer-harmonica player Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith, Carey bell & Lazy Lester for a smorgasbord of blues stylings.
Hummel himself is a formidable harp player and revives a Lloyd Price Crescent City rocker Where Y’at along with Little Walter’s Roller Coaster followed by Freund who sings two numbers followed by Smith ably handling Hoodoo Man Blues. Cephas & Wiggins come off typically fine on five numbers including an instrumental, Fats Domino’s Going to the River and Robert Johnson’s Walkin’ Blues.
The second disc has some strong performances by Bell including It Ain’t Right and I’m Ready while Lazy Lester handles his own Blues Stop Knocking, Slim Harpo’s Raining in My Heart and his Sugar Coated Love. Freund plays on Bell’s selections and Hummel’s band able supports all the performances except those by Cephas & Wiggins. Blues harp fans will find plenty of music to entertain them here.
Both of the above reviews appeared in the DC Blues Calendar, newsletter of the Dc Blues Society that I edited. The review of Blues Harp Meltdown Volume 2 appeared in the April 2004 issue while the review of Blues Harp Meltdown Volume 3 appeared in July-August 2006. The review of Volume 3 appeared in the July-August 2006 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 284). I believe that this was a purchase.