My initial love for blues music began when I listened to "Write Me A Few Of Your Lines/Kokomo Blues" off the 1973 album, Takin' My Time by Bonnie Raitt. From that moment on, I was hooked and couldn't get enough of that sound. Something about the song "Kokomo Blues", has always stayed with me. The alternating bass, pulsating like a heartbeat behind the rootsy voice of Ms. Raitt, as her acoustic slide resonates with a gutsy, emotional fever right, from the very first note. This is true blues music at it's best, the kind of music that grabs you by your insides, and won't let go. This Delta sound has been kept alive by a handful of artists like Keb'Mo', Taj Mahal, and of course Bonnie Raitt. Within these past few years, a new influx of artists have entered the blues scene, staying true to the original Delta style. One such talented artist recently caught my ear with his incredible musicianship, and his intuitiveness to the raw emotions of the genre. This new blues artist is Michael J. Hartman from Atlanta Georgia.
It was during one of my monthly blues check on www.mp3.com that I found Michael's music. I was immediately taken with his talents from the first of his samples, "My Sweet Baby," a love song about his woman, with a Robert Johnson feel...
...she's got honey runnin' through her veins...
...I've seen the others, you'll never hear me complain...
Michael wrote and recorded this song as a gift to his girlfriend, now fiancee', back in April of 2000. Each subsequent sample, touches upon the styling of several blues legends like, Skip James, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Son House, and Charlie Patton. If I close my eyes, I can see him sitting up on the front porch, playing right along with these blues masters.
Michael is a gifted guitarist, especially playing bottleneck, his talents certainly go way beyond his years with songs like, "I'm So Happy Blues," "Sail Upon The Ocean" and "Tell Me Baby." He has developed a genuine feel and understanding for the music itself, like a sixth sense, expressing a range of emotion from pleasure to pain. A good example is with hard driving songs like, "Crazy Woman Blues" and "Low Down Dog Blues," to the softer sound of "Cold Ground, Big Sky Blues" and "Had You Never Known My Name." He has a real sensitivity to the origins of this genre, by honoring the deep rooted traditions of the Delta style which is the pure essence of his music.
Music has been a mainstay in Michael's life since childhood, starting with his Grandfather, a farmer, who played in square dance bands and gave lessons, progressing to his father, who also played acoustic guitar on a regular basis. Michael started singing and playing guitar on his own when he was fourteen, focusing on the music of Jimi Hedrix. He began tracing back his musical roots to the earlier days of his career. Finding a true connection with the blues influence of that time, Michael started purchasing older blues albums from used record stores. He discovered those original artists who made the blues come alive, which brought him to the realization of his own musical calling. From that point forward, Michael has continued to fine tune his craft as a Delta Blues artist, keeping with the traditional sound that he knows and loves.
His first CD, When I Think Of Ramblin'(MP3.com) was released in the summer of 2000. It has a unique opening of a train whistling in the background, then enters right into the next song. The CD consists of eleven originally written songs and his version of the blues standard, "Catfish Blues". His second CD released the summer of 2001 is called, Slidin' Delta Blues (MP3.com). This latest CD has ten original songs with his take on two standards, "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" and "Rollin' And Tumblin'"(accompanied by Tony Whetstone). I like the way he opens this with the studio version of, "I'm So Happy Blues", and then closes with his live version of the very same song, it's a nice comparison of format. Both CD's are brimming over with the full flavor of Delta Blues, the way it's meant to be played. Those things that are noticeably missing with each work, such as that managed studio sound, or all the bells and whistles of background musicians or band members, are exactly what makes both these CDs so special.
More importantly, what you do receive with each work by Michael J. Hartman, is an intimate solo performance that touches the tender place of the heart, and also grabs you by both shoulders and shakes up your soul. Either way, he'll have your toes tappin' while transporting you back in time to many a front porch on the Mississippi Delta. For the blues enthusiast, treat yourself, this artists work is a must have for adding to your collection.
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