James Harman albums are always well received by myself, so it was with pleasure that I received this album to review. The album is taken from Recordings that James did between 1984-87 for Bob Rivera, with lots of his friends joining James and his band. The first album of these recordings was issued on LP back in 1988 with the subsequence CD release in 1997 on Cannonball Records, titled "Extra Napkins: Strictly the Blues Vol.1." This new album on Cannonball is Vol.2 of these recordings and all the tracks were unissued until now. There will also be a Vol.3 apparently. The album comprises of 14 tracks, half of them written by James.
"Mo' Na'kins, Please #2" opens up the album with James giving a quick burst of harp and Junior Watson adding some very melodic guitar, James then takes us on a joyful romp that also has Junior playing a splendid solo, Larry Taylor on Acoustic Bass keeps everything swingin' with some fine bass playing. James in his sleeve notes calls this opening number the classic 1950's Memphis Guitar and electric harp band number. The album on a whole has this swingin' chuggin' melodic feel to it, which is demonstrated well on "Too Much Family" which has Hollywood Fats playing some stunning guitar aided by Stephen Taylor Hodges on drums. "Icepick Boogie" is a tribute to BB King and Little Milton, Kid Ramos is the featured guitarist and plays some mean rhythmic guitar while the band swing along at a crackin' pace with a horn section joining in. "Shim Sham Shimmy" has a lively party feel to it and the band certainly sound like they are partying, Kid Ramos and Hollywood Fats joined forces on the guitar front. "Dirty Work At The Crossroads" has a more down-home feel to it, James gives a first class
reading of the Gatemouth Brown song with some sterling work from Kid Ramos. "(Feel Like) Messin' Up" is a tribute to Five Royals and has a real tortured vocal from James as he is joined by 6 other singers to pull off a great performance of this bluesy do-wop song. My favourite track on this CD is Sonny Boy Williams's "The Goat" which has some tremendous Acoustic harp blowing from James against some fine piano playing from Gene Taylor as Hollywood Fats and Kid Ramos do a faultless copy of Robert, Jr and Muddy Waters parts in the song. "Jake Head Boogie" sees James and Kid Ramos alone on this Lightnin' Hopkins tune. Another version of "Mo' Na'kins, Please #1" which sounds raw and dirty and what you might have heard live at the end of the forties, finishes this rather good display of swingin' Texas, and Memphis 50's style
blues. Why these recording have not been put on CD earlier is beyond me, these recordings are first class and show a band aided by friends at the top of their playing careers, after playing night after night on the road honing their talents to perfection. James is also a first class song writer and the self composed songs on this fine album are great examples how to write very
good blues songs in these modern times.
Cannonball Records Website: www.canball.com
This review is copyright © 2001 by Dave Thomas, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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