"Keeping the Blues Alive Award" Achievement for Blues on the Internet Presented by The Blues Foundation
Mark Hummel should need little introduction to fans of blues as his presence has been a part of the music for some time now. Following up a couple of releases on the Tone-Cool label, among other work, Electro-Fi has the honors of issuing Golden State Blues for 2002. Steeped in the West Coast tradition, although born in Connecticut in 1955, Mark's sound has grown more recognizable over time with a good selection of recordings under his belt. His delivery here over a dozen tracks (54 minutes) is just good, old-fashioned blues.
Backed by a tight supporting cast of Charles Wheal on guitar, with help from Rusty Zinn and Anson Funderburgh on a few, plus a tight rhythm section, Hummel's harp and vocals get the backup necessary to hand in a tough set. Kicking off with a couple of varied shuffles, Beepin' On Me and Honey Dew Woman, Hummel shows quick possession of a deep, rich harp tone on the first and allows the guitar skills of Zinn and Funderburgh to flow next, and the chromatic comes out for Right Back Where I Started, a slow and smoking blues with plenty of dynamics and severe harp. Hummel's Please... gets a rocking treatment with jangling guitars over a Jimmy Reed/Eddie Taylor groove while Hummel hands in a fine workout tackling a couple of different registers and the pace draws back for Sometimes Baby where Charles Wheal turns in one of the highlights with a restrained yet incredibly powerful guitar solo drenched in tone and focused on delivery. Sonny Boy Williamson's I Don't Know gets a fine treatment as the band locks into a shuffling pattern and they take it to an uptown groove for Ray Sharpe's Linda Lu. The set closes with a pair of tracks recorded in Stockholm; while the instrumental Blue Jimmy shows a jazz-influenced approach, Hummel remains on a straight blues path with some creative work and for Stockholm Train, everyone rocks along smoothly. Horns fatten up the sound on a few and just when you think the show is over, a hidden track pops up. Tackling Roller Coaster, an instrumental classic from the Little Walter Jacobs' catalog bests the version of Too Late Brother, which shows up one-third of the way into the CD.
While there are plenty of harp players around today offering solid chops, there are few who have the grasp and understanding of tone that Mark Hummel has, and while he can play with the best of them, he prefers the timeless Chicago method of blowing to make a statement and nothing more. Hats off to an artist deserving more exposure... now if he can just find a way to take his yearly 'Blues Harp Meltdown' show on the road, we'll all be a lot better off. Web information is available at: www.electrofi.com and firstname.lastname@example.org gets your email where it needs it to go.
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