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JAMES HARMAN

CARDS ON THE TABLE

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HEPCAT (HEP0523)

Night Ridin' Daddy, Where's My Thang? Cards On The Table, Temporary Blues, Black Under Black, Don't Spoil My View, Three Way Party, Sparks Start Flyin', Run Run Tonight, Last Clean Shirt, I'll Call You, Crazy By Degrees, Walk The Streets.

James Harman is a lot of things: He's a top notch, greasy and gritty harmonica player who plays with the same virtuosic verve as his heroes Little Walter, Walter Horton and Sonny Boy Williamson and he's a stand out singer who mixes hard blues vocalising with cool jive-ass beatnik-cool attitude. And he's an old-style hands-on bandleader who can spot talent about a decade before anyone else. Over the years Harman has had some pretty big hitters on his payroll. Hollywood Fats, Kid Ramos, Junior Watson, Enrico Crivellaro, Buddy Reed, Gene Taylor and Joel Foy have all passed through and benefited from being in his band. To complete the package, he's a true original blues songwriter who prides himself on wise, witty and, at times, way-out lyrics.

You get a perfect demonstration of his prodigious skills on this excellent CD via tracks as diverse as the upbeat horn-led ‘Black under Black' to the slop-bucket R&B of ‘Don't Spoil my View' and the rollicking down-home slide guitar number ‘Sparks Start  Flyin'. Then there's ‘Where's My Thang' - a consumer nightmare of a song in the Coasters tradition that has a neat mumbling dialogue and a funky horn section that really goes to town on the fade-out. Every track displays that indefinable magic that epitomises the music of James Harman.

If you're already a fan, you'll know that the album was made in Harman's ‘old school, real guy way, recorded live in the studio into tube and ribbon microphones, then special pre-amps...' etc - the way real blues was always recorded and just one more thing that makes this music so special.

Anson Funderburgh makes a welcome appearance on ‘Temporary blues' but the real guitar star is Sugar Boy Easton who lets rip chonkin' out the rhythm and scattering out blistering solos on tracks like ‘Crazy By Degree' and ‘Three Way Party' but it's Harman's harmonica that tops everything. Listen to songs like ‘Night Ridin' Daddy' and ‘Cards On The Table' and the scorching opening to ‘Three Way Party' for some of the most superior harp action you'll ever hear.

Originally recorded for Black Top in 1994, this gem disappeared along with the record company over a decade ago. It was a five-star blast in 1994 and it still is fifteen years later!

 

Review Date: July 2009

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