Friday, December 09, 2016

Big Harp George Wash My Horse In Champagne

Big Harp George
Wash My Horse In Champagne
Blues Mountain Records

A follow-up to his widely acclaimed "Chromaticism," Big Harp George (Bisharat) has another superb album featuring his swinging acoustic chromatic playing and natural unforced vocals full of feeling and humor. Recorded at Kid Andersen's Greaseland Studios, Kid supplies bass or guitar on much of this with Chris Burns on keyboards and Raja Kawar on drums. Little Charlie Baty is on guitar for 7 of the 13 selections while Kedar Roy adds bass to 5 tracks and horns are present on 6 songs.

It is hard to single out any specific song as they are generally wonderfully played and sung. Andersen's guitar runs stick out on the amusing "Road Kill," while the title track has, interesting lyrics, an intriguing groove along with Baty's flamenco tinged acoustic guitar before some chromatic harp magic. This selection illustrates how some old school, real deal blues players can make something fresh and contemporary without rocking out. Then he evokes some 40's Slim & Slam jive with the peppy "Cool Mistake," "followed by a terrific slow blues "My Bright Future" whose tune is suggestive of the classic moody West Coast Blues, "Black Night."

The first track with horns is the easy swinging "I Ain't the Judge of You," and beside more clever lyrics, there is a terrific sax solo from Michael Peloquin and jazz-tinged guitar from Baty. The blues ballad, "I Wasn't Ready," is a delightful musical cousin of "Since I Feel For You," with more fine playing by Peloquin and Baty (the interplay of Peloquin and Big Harp George at the beginning is noteworthy, Baty's solo is terrific, while the leader's own horn like phrasing and tone is stunning). A terrific jumping blues, "If Only," stands out with more clever word play and some solid piano.

"Mojo Waltz" is a terrific instrumental with Peloquin on baritone sax (and overdubbed other saxes and Mike Rinta's trombone) that help frame some more startling harmonica, guitar (this time from Andersen) and a trombone solo. Another instrumental, "Size Matters," swings and there is some judicious use of the chromatic's lower register on this while the closing "Justice is My Time," is a superb track with just Andersen's bass providing the backing.

With "Wash My Horse In Champagne" Big George Harp again has another winner of a recording. The mix of strong songs, a terrific band, solid singing and fabulous harmonica results in the stellar music here.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the May-June 2016 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 366). Here is a video clip from his CD release show for this CD.

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