A review for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Dale Ott
These guys ain't no Stevie Ray/John Popper wannabees. The pudgy one on this album does play harp and the thin one plays a mean guitar but that's where the similarity ends. This stuff is the blues, like the good old days, like you read about.
Harvey Blackston (Harmonica Fats) wrote ten of the twelve songs on the album. He sings those songs with a gravel tinged voice that just fits this style of blues. You can almost hear that voice in his harp playing as well. Extra thick and zesty. Not a million notes per measure but just the right number. No tone and a half bends but plenty of feeling. This guy's been doing it for a while and he's pretty good at it.
Bernie Pearl plays guitar (a 1956 Martin and an old National) and he's pretty good at it too. But the most amazing thing is he's willing to spend most of his time backing up Harmonica Fats' vocals and harp playing. And he really does it well. Every harp player should have a guitar player like this, capable, talented and modest at the same time. He throws in plenty of tasty licks and takes a share of the solos but he seems so comfortable working in the background that he almost surprises you when he doe s a little something special. A lot of people will tell you the blues sound best played on a beat up old cheap guitar. He makes them sound good on a Martin. He cowrote one song with HF and wrote another. Both are the only instrumentals on the album.
Half of the 12 songs on the album are standard 12 bar blues, from the slow _You Got Your Mouth Stuck Out_ to the uptempo _Blabbermouth Man_ to the instrumental _Blues March_. The rest are blues flavored, like the country/folk _Everyday's a Working Day for Me_, 60's Mo-Town style _Soul Food_ and the instrumental shuffle _L.A. Shake_.
Aspiring blues players could learn a few things from this album. HF plays his own harp responses during the verses of _Blabbermouth Man_. There's some great rhythm harp in _L.A. Shake_. On _I Know She Crazy 'Bout Me Too_ after a long harp intro the first verse is just harp and vocal call and response, then the guitar comes in. They continue with a good example of interplay with the guitar ending the harp riffs and vice versa.
While it might be a bit of a stretch to declare these guys the modern day Brownie and Sonny, I think they have the technical skills and songwriting ability to bring alive this old genre and play it the way the old guys would sitting on the front porch on a dusty Sunday afternoon.
These two could sit and play on my front porch any afternoon.