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James Harman: Side Dishes (2007)

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James Harman: Side Dishes How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Compiled from twelve of James Harman's most recent CDs, which were originally released between 1981 and 2003, Side Dishes offers a good look at where he's at today. Singing and playing a mean harp, the bluesman packs a wallop into every performance. Based in Los Angeles, he continues to please local audiences just about all year round. Fortunately, Harman isn't one to sit tight for any length of time. He tours frequently and spreads his unique blues message around the world in liberal doses. He believes in pure blues: the kind that comes from the heart, shows a sincere respect for roots tradition, and still manages to rock your boat all night long.

Harman, 61, grew up in Alabama where he lived with the blues on radio, on local street corners, and in his home through piano lessons. He showed a natural talent on his father's harmonicas, giving them a workout every chance he got. As soon as he was old enough, he started working the blues in clubs. The work took him through Panama City (Florida), Chicago, New York, Miami, New Orleans and eventually to Southern California where he found a home for his music. He's collaborated with some of the best in the blues business over the years, and some of his most exciting sidemen are heard here on this compilation.

Harman sings his own compositions. They appear in chronological order on this CD, grabbing onto a Deep South rhythm for their rhythmic wiggle and containing the contemporary blues textures of guitar, bass and drums along with the leader's vocals and harp. At a recent 2007 live appearance in Southern California, Harman used congas, two guitars, upright bass, and drums to deliver original songs with mighty power. As he closed the nineteenth annual Battle of the Blues Harps festival in November, he brought everyone up on their feet for a smokin' finale that will be remembered for years to come.

With the thirteen songs on Side Dishes, Harmon has amassed a thirteen-way tie for his "best of selection. Whether it's "Too Much Family, with guitarist Hollywood Fats, "Jump My Baby, with guitarist Kid Ramos, "Lonesome Moon Trance, with guitarist Nathan James or "Decisions, with guitarist Junior Watson, Harman explores blues from the inside out with an unquenchable spirit.

Track Listing: (I Got) So Many Womens; Jump My Baby; Wont Be Goin Again; Just as Well to Kill Me; Its Alright Now; Swamp Night; My Little Girl; Three Way Party; Leavin for Memphis; Decisions; Too Much Family; Crapshoot; Lonesome Moon Trance.

Personnel: James Harman: harmonica, vocals, percussion; David Kid Ramos: guitar (1-5, 12); Hollywood Fats: guitar (3-5, 11); Junior Watson: guitar (10); Joel Foy: guitar (6); Ted Morgan: guitar (7); Robby Eason: guitar (8, 9); Nathan James: guitar (13); Gene Taylor: guitar (1), piano (2, 4, 5, 13); Fred Kaplan: piano (9, 11); Thom Mahon: piano (12); Rare Norm Harris: organ (10); Willie J. Campbell: Fender bass (1-3), acoustic bass (4, 5, 11); Rick Reed: Fender bass (10), acoustic bass (12); Buddy Clark: Fender bass (13); Stephen T. Hodges: drums (1-6, 11, 12); Lee Campbell: drums (9); Mike Cherry: drums (8); Paul Fasulo: drums (10); Esten Cooke: drums and percussion (7); Alan West: drums and percussion (13); Steve Mugalian: drums and percussion (6); Jeff Turmes: saxophone (2), Fender bass (6, 8), slide guitar (7); Lawrence White: saxophone (2).

Record Label: Gulfcoast Records

Style: Blues


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