Steve Guyger’s career playing the blues, including a lengthy stint with the legendary Jimmy Rogers, is reflected in the pictures of him that accompany his new Severn album, Radio Days. As Rick Estrin notes, “Steve Guyger is a true master of Blues Harmonica.” But more important than his virtuosity on the ‘Mississippi saxophone,’ is how deep he is in the blues tradition. As stunning and original a player as he is, he remains embedded in that tradition.
He is backed by an impressive band that includes Johnny Moeller on guitar, Steve Gomes on bass, Robb Stupka on drums and Bill Heid on piano that provide spare, direct accompaniment that suits Guyger’s no-frills vocals and strong harp. Originals like You’re So Fine and Cool in the Evening, evoke classic Little Walter recordings, while he employs a zydeco groove on the peppy Little Rita, which sports a fine chromatic harmonica solo. He stays on chromatic for a strong deep Blues Won’t Let Me Be, a song that suggests some of the late Carey Bell’s originals.
Guyger is particularly effective here as a vocalist and blasts a terrific solo, while he also does a credible rendition of Rudolph Toombs, I’m Shakin’, originally done by Little Willie John although Guyger perhaps lacks the vocal authority of The Blasters’ Phil Alvin who placed their mark on this a quarter century ago. Oh Red benefits from the understated accompaniment on this Kansas Joe Mccoy tune that has been covered numerous times. Echoes of Guitar Slim’s Things I Used to Do, can be heard in the melody of I Can See By Your Eyes, although Guyger’s harp and the backing lend a swamp blues flavor suggesting Lazy Lester on a splendid performance, while he sings more forcefully on Muddy Waters’ Let Me Hang Around.
Overall Radio Days is a release that anyone liking classic Chicago blues will savor. Guyger is a very good singer and a terrific harp player. He is backed here by an excellent band that enhance his performances.
I received a review copy from Severn Records. I do not believe this review that was written in 2008 was ever published. Here is a video of Steve Guyger performing a Jimmy Rogers number.