Severn Records has just issued Diamonds in the Rough a collection of lesser known blues harp players from Chicago called the Chicago Blues Harmonica Project with the intent of showing that down home classic style Chicago blues harp can still be heard today. Of the six harp players, Dusty Brown, Omar Coleman, Russ Green, Larry Cox, Harmonica Khan #1 and Little Addison, only Brown and Cox had been recorded previously. Brown in fact recorded a classic He Don’t Love You for the Parrot label 50 years ago which he reprised here while Cox recorded with Phil Guy on an lp. The six mostly show traditional blues roots including the influences of Little Walter, Big Walter and the two Sonny Boy Williamsons although Russ Green was influenced by the innovative modern blues harp wiz, Sugar Blue.
The backing band of guitarists Rick Kreher & Little Frank, pianist Mark Brumbach, bassist Pat McKeever and drummer Twist Turner provide the solid backing that allows the performers to shine without drawing attention to themselves. Nothing fancy or original as they are generally blues traditionalists. Dusty Brown does a solid take at Little Walter’s I Got to Go along with his own number while Larry Cox handles Walter’s Mean Old World although playing in the style of Sonny Boy Williamson II. Harmonica Khan had recently returned to the blues scene when he recorded Jimmy Reed’s Baby What You Want Me to Do and Junior Parker’s Next Time You See Me backed solely by his harp and bones playing, whooping and hollering on these very enjoyable performances. Unfortunately he passed away shortly thereafter.
Little Addison updates Look on Yonder’s Wall with a pleading vocal and some chromatic harp while Omar Coleman takes a more modern blues theme on Jody’s Got You Gal and Gone as well as doing a nice take on Little Walter’s Everything’s Gonna Be Alright with a strong soulful vocal and some real fine playing, and Larry Cox handles Jimmy Reed’s Going to New York. This is a really nicely put together cd that displays some real enjoyable blues artists that may not be major names but certainly bring plenty of heart to their recordings.
This review was written back in 2005 and published in the May-June 2006 Jazz & Blues Report (issue 282). I received my review copy from Severn Records. I have reviewed the second volume of this series, More Rare Gems and posted it on September 28, 2009 which I have linked. I received my review copy from Severn records.