Eighteen cuts and 72-plus minutes of Chicago Blues is what you can do if you own your own record label, however this is not a vanity disc, Chris Harper can play the harp (the label is co-owned by Chris and Dave Katzman). This new record label is starting out with the best of intentions and the first three releases are all quite good, each in their own way. Peaches Staten's, Live at Legends, is an exceptionally good showcase for this dynamic powerhouse's vocal ability to drive a crowd wild. She stretches and shows her Zydeco roots on a cut or two and she does nail it. Huge powerful vocals matched by her huge personality make this live disc one you want to grab up. Rob Blaine's Big Otis Blues, has some very good playing and displays some good touch, however it seems like we've heard it before, though his delicate touch on a couple of numbers leaves the reviewer looking for more of the same.
Chris Harper's Four Aces and a Harp, with the all-star band really lets loose and shows that some of these iconic bluesmen still are going strong and playing vital music; the disc is part electric blues and part acoustic blues by design; to show the Delta origins of what would become Chicago Blues and then to play the electrified Chicago sound this music morphed into when the players moved North for the jobs and to escape the south.
The band and guests read like a whose who of the Chicago Blues scene, many of them, such as Willie "Big Eyes Smith and John Primer alumni of Muddy and Howlin' Wolf's bands take center stage, and they combine with some of the younger guns, that are faithfully carrying the traditions forward to the future. This is a disc with not a throw away cut on it, and that is something rare nowadays, particularly when you take into account the 18 cuts and 72-plus minutes laid down for you here. Just a little side note to give you a fuller picture of Chris Harper, he is Swiss and ran a state of the art technology company in Switzerland, left there to play the blues; and our lives are enriched for his decision to devote himself to the music he loves.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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