Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mark Hummel Finds It Ain't Easy No More

West Coast harmonica wizard Mark Hummel has been increasing his visibility with his annual blues harmonica packages which have brought together a number of harmonica legends and led to several outstanding CDs documenting the tours. The shows are anchored around Hummel and his fine band of guitarist Charlie Wheal, bassist Steve Wolf and drummer Marty Dodson.

Electro-Fi has just issued Hummel’s Third album for the label, Ain’t Easy No More, that will certainly delight his fans and blues harp fans. A mixture of Hummel’s originals and some choice rearrangements of previously recorded blues, Hummel impresses most as a harp player and his band (augmented by horns on several tracks) is terrific supporting him. Hummel also writes some strong originals, including the topical Big Easy (Ain’t Easy No More), based on his reaction to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Hummel is a pleasant vocalist but his delivery does not match the outrage of the lyrics here nor does he have the forcefulness to be completely convincing on Muddy Waters’ She’s Got It. But on other tracks his delivery works better and there is really little to fault whether listening to his reworking of a Ray Charles jump blues Get on the Right Track, or a couple of fine Eddie Boyd songs, You Got to Reap and Blues is Here to Stay. Harp features include his originals Harpoventilating, and Bird Brain, and Little Sonny’s The Creeper Returns, all of which showcase his driving, full-bodied playing.

Overall a strong album and my quibbles about his vocals on a couple tracks should not be taken too far as his vocals are easy to take. Recommended highly.

This review originally appeared in the October 2006 DC Blues Calendar and the October 2006 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 287). I am not sure whether I received this directly from the company or a publicist for the label. Here is some Mark Hummel for your viewing pleasure. I reviewed last month Mark Hummel's recent Little Walter tribute.

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