Mark Hummel has been a mainstay on the San Francisco Bay Area blues scene for a remarkable 30 years. After receiving rave reviews on his harmonica virtuosity in the Bay Area, in 1985 Hummel and his band, The Blues Survivors, took to the road, traveling from coast-to-coast where his hard work and showmanship demonstrated to everyone who heard him that he could "deliver the goods" when it came to classic style harp-based blues.
Mark Hummel's latest release on Electro-Fi Records (and his first) is called Golden State Blues. Golden State Blues is Hummel's seventh solo release on a variety of labels. Additionally, he appeared on Blues Harp Meltdown (2001), a double CD that featured Hummel and six other blues harp masters in a live west-coast session. Along with his regular band, The Blues Survivors (Charles Wheal (guitar), Steve Wolf (bass) and Marty Dodson (drums)), the CD includes additional musical support from such notables as Steve Lucky (The Rhumba Bums) on keyboards, John Firmin (The Johnny Nocturne Band) on saxophone along with guitarists Rusty Zinn and Anson Funderburgh.
Six of the twelve song on Golden State Blues are Mark Hummel originals and all twelve songs have been stamped with Hummel's distinctive harp style. The CD opens with "Beepin' On Me," a song Mark says was written while sitting in traffic. Based on the lyrics, it appears that Hummel is drawing the conclusion that a relationship with a woman can be likened to being caught in traffic. "Honey Do Woman," a Sonny Rhodes tune, includes some nice guitar by both Rusty Zinn and Anson Funderburgh along with Hummel's harp. The Zinn/Funderburgh duo team up again later on a Mark Hummel original entitled "Please....".
Songs on Golden State Blues vary in tempo from the slow, grinding "Right Back Where I Started," another Mark Hummel composition, to the jumping sound of "Too Late Brother." Styles vary during the progression of the CD as well, including the Jimmy Reed-like sound of "Please.....," the slow burning blues heard on "Sometimes Baby" and the rockabilly feeling brought out by "Linda Lu."
Of particular interest is the song "Blues Jimmy," a fine harp-laden instrumental dedicated to Hummel's late friend and drummer, Jim Overton. The song is filled with smooth harp sounds and a nice guitar solo by Blues Survivor guitarist Charles Wheal. The song supports the validity of the raves about Hummel's talent, in addition to being one of the most entertaining songs on Golden State Blues.
Golden State Blues concludes (or so you might think) with the up tempo "Stockholm Train," a song conceived, written, recorded and produced in Sweden. The song was inspired by a train station across the street from where the band was staying on a Scandinavian tour. However, there appears to be a "hidden" track on the CD, because after a brief silence the CD really reaches the end with an instrumental extension of "Stockholm Train" that leaves the listener with images of a train leaving the station and heading for its next stop on the blues railway (the song is actually a cover of a Little Walter instrumental called "Roller Coaster"). It is a fine ending to the latest offering by the highly respected and widely traveled Mark Hummel.
If you want to pick up a copy of Golden State Blues, or any of Mark Hummel's other available recordings, attend one of the band's live shows or go online to www.electrofi.com or www.markhummel.com. The Mark Hummel website also provides background on Mark, the band and includes a tour schedule.
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