(2005) Harmonica Masters

Various Artists

... read moreContinuing the label's exploration deep into the early vernacular music of the United States, Yazoo Records devotes this compilation to some of the finest harmonica players of the 1920s and 1930s. Harmonica Masters features performances by harp greats like DeFord Bailey, Noah Lewis, Jed Davenport...

01:11′:21″ 23 Songs

1
Various Artists
Ice Water Blues
3:18
2
Various Artists
Lost Boy Blues
3:23
3
Various Artists
Mississippi Swamp Moan
3:18
4
Various Artists
Choking Blues
3:13
5
Various Artists
Chickasaw Special
3:20
6
Various Artists
Pennsylvania Woman Blues
3:11
7
Various Artists
Take Your Foot Out Of The Mud & Put It In The Sand
2:49
8
Various Artists
Don't Mistreat Your Good Boy Friend
3:18
9
Various Artists
The Downfall Of Paris
3:07
10
Various Artists
Touch Me Light Mama
2:46
11
Various Artists
Booneville Stomp
3:29
12
Various Artists
How Long Blues
2:55
13
Various Artists
East Virginia Blues
2:58
14
Various Artists
Goin' Cross The Sea
2:52
15
Various Artists
Just It - William Mccoy
3:20
16
Various Artists
Wilkes County Blues
2:54
17
Various Artists
Man Trouble Blues
3:03
18
Various Artists
I Want My Mama
2:51
19
Various Artists
Gastonia Gallop
2:41
20
Various Artists
Don't Let Your Head Hang Down
3:01
21
Various Artists
Sisco Harmonica Blues
3:19
22
Various Artists
Down South Blues
3:12
23
Various Artists
Medley Of Blues
3:03
Released 20 June 2005, Shanachie

Review

Continuing the label's exploration deep into the early vernacular music of the United States, Yazoo Records devotes this compilation to some of the finest harmonica players of the 1920s and 1930s. Harmonica Masters features performances by harp greats like DeFord Bailey, Noah Lewis, Jed Davenport, Jaybird Coleman, and 19 others. The smallest and therefore most portable of instruments, the harmonica took a place not unlike that of the violin in blues and jug band combos. As the musicians here demonstrate, it can also be a fine solo instrument. In the hands of an expert, the harmonic and melodic musical elements mesh so perfectly, it can sound as if they are occurring at the same time. In fact, they are being swapped at such a pace that the absence of neither is very noticeable at any given time. Alfred Lewis' fine playing is overshadowed only by his otherworldly falsetto on "Mississippi Swamp Moan." It takes on such a bizarre quality that it sounds more like an instrument than a voice and is matched beautifully with responsive harp lines. At the opposite extreme, "Touch Me Light Mama" is a wonderfully raw blues piece featuring George "Bullet" Williams' earthy baritone. Whatever Williams and his accompanist lack in technique, they make up for in the visceral quality of their unguarded performance. Gwen Foster's "Wilks County Blues" is an astonishing, vibrato-laden showcase of the musician's harmonica powers, reaching the upper registers of the instrument. On "Chickasaw Special," Noah Lewis expertly imitates the sounds of a train -- an example of a performance style probably introduced by Williams McCoy. From novelty to dance music to deep blues, from accompanist to soloist, Harmonica Masters demonstrates the fascinating tonal and musical possibilities of this underacknowledged instrument. ~ Nathan Bush