RIDING THE RAILS--JOHN HENRY--DAVIDSON COUNTY BLUES--LITTLE EMBARRAS--CATTLE CAR BLUES--LAZY RIVER--OLD SOUL--OLD DODIE--GATEWAY TO THE BLUES--YEA MY BABY--BROCTON STRAIGHT--UP ALL NIGHT BLUES--MOVING SOON--CONE-A-PHONE BOOGIE--MIDNIGHT BLUES--BIG FAT MAMA--MAD DOG 20\20
During our foray into Tunica, MS, last week for the Blues Awards, we were very fortunate to meet some of the artists whom we've been listening to and reviewing for years, as well as some new friends, too. One of our new friends hails from the St. Louis Blues Society, Deak Harp. Deak graciously gave us a copy of his CD, "Gateway To The Blues," and we are proud to submit its review. Deak is a classic harp player, literally cut from the mold of James Cotton. Over the years, Deak and Cotton have forged a friendship, and Cotton actually mentored Deak, showing him not only the nuances of the harp, but how to be a bandleader, too.
Whether intentional or not, Deak's CD is a virtual "history lesson" in how the harmonica evolved in the concept of the blues, from an extension of the human voice during the pre-WWII, predominantly "country blues" era up until today where it is a prominent member of many contemporary blues combos.
Most of the cuts are instrumentals giving Deak ample opportunity to show off his considerable chops. He is ably backed by drummer Eddie Clark, and guitarist Tom Holland. Songs such as "Cattle Car Blues," "John Henry," and "Riding The Rails" hearken back to the pre-WWII days, and could easily serve as a primer for novice harp players. (Deak even showed me the "train whistle" effect he learned from Cotton in front of our hotel!) As time progressed and the "blues Band" concept grew, so did the harp's place in history. Starting with "Old Soul," Deak and the other band members enjoy more interplay, becoming more of the traditional combo. We even get to hear Deak's road-tested vocals on cuts like "Yea My Baby" and "Big Fat Mama," with its jazzed-up, swingin' vibe.
For us, tho, the highlights were Deak's harp blowouts. "Midnight Blues" employs Deak trading harp licks on his chromatic with Tom Holland's lead lines. "Moving Soon" was a medley of sorts, with a little bit of everything from "Woody Woodpecker" to "Down By The Riverside." And, the most unusual cut had to be "Cone-A-Phone Boogie," wherein Deak uses a GI Joe Communicator Helmet duct-taped to a megaphone and run thru a 9V battery. The sound is definitely different!!
Deak Harp has worked diligently to hone his harp-blowing craft, and his
practice and mentoring under Cotton has produced perhaps the "finest
harp player you've never heard!" Remedy that situation by getting
a copy of "Gateway To The Blues" today!!! Until next time....Sheryl
and Don Crow.