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Telarc Blues culls their considerable holdings to provide a wholly satisfying collection of contemporary blues harmonica by contemporary and not-so-contemporary blues musicians. Represented here is approximately equal the rural harmonica style common to the Mississippi (e.g., Sonny Terry) and the close-miked, hyperamplified flavor pioneered by Marion "Little Walter" Jacobs in the 1950s. The pieces are derived from 1990s-2000s releases, the earliest being "Muddy's Shuffle" from the Muddy Waters Tribute Band's You're Gonna Miss Me (When I'm Dead and Gone) (CD 83335, 1994), and the latest, Charlie Musselwhite's In Your Darkest Hour (CD 83547, 2001).
From the sound of things, it seems that the old masters have lost none of their wind. Two pieces, the extended workouts "Fire down Under The Hill" featuring James Cotton in rare form and "Harp to Harp" featuring the lion's share of the mouth harp players on this disc. This latter piece is definitely the centerpiece and contains the most provocative blues harp shouting of the entire offering. The highlights are many. Robert Jr. Lockwood sings and plays his stepfather's "Steady Rollin' Man" with the mighty fine Corey Bell blowing the harp from Hellhound on My Trail – Songs of Robert Johnson (CD83521, 1999). Also included is Junior Wells's "The Goat" from the last critical success before his death, Come on in This House (CD 83395, 1998). What makes this compilation totally worthwhile is Snooky Pryor's a cappella contribution to Down the Dirt Road – The Songs of Charlie Patton (CD 83535), "Pony Blues." In that brief 4:55, Pryor distills all of the electric combo hoopla down to the bare essence using the most appropriate vehicle to do so. This material was well-chosen and performed, providing the listener with the state of the blues mouth harp in 2001.
Track Listing: Mighty Fine Boogie (Ronnie Earl-- Guitar; Kim Wilson-- Harmonica; James Cotton-- Harmonica); Knocking At Your Door (John Primer-- Guitar, Vocals; Matthew Skoller-- Harmonica); TD's Boogie Woogie (James Cotton-- Harmonica; Billy Branch-- Harmonica); Rock Me Baby (Hubert Sumlin-- Vocals; Annie Raines-- Harmonica); Lightning (James Cotton-- Harmonica, Vocals); I'm A Steady Rollin' Man (Robert Jr. Lockwood-- Guitar, Vocals; Carey Bell-- Harmonica); In Your Darkest Hour (Charlie Musselwhite-- Vocals, Harmonica); Bring It On Home (Kenny Neal-- Vocals Guitar, Harmonica); Muddy's Shuffle (Muddy Waters Tribute Band, Jerry Portnoy-- Harmonica); The Goat (Junior Wells-- Vocals, Harmonica); Starlight Diamond (Raful Neal-- Vocals, Harmonica; Lazy Lester-- Harmonica); Fire Down Under The Hill (James Cotton-- Vocals, Harmonica); Pony Blues (Snooky Pryor-- Vocals, Harmonica); Harp To Harp (Charlie Musselwhite, Sugar Ray Norcia, Billy Branch, James Cotton-- Harmonica)