Ryan Hartt & The Blue Hearts
Far Tone (2003) FT JT30
15 tracks, 67 minutes.
by Craig Ruskey
Review date: March 2003
"Keeping the Blues Alive Award"|
Achievement for Blues on the Internet
Presented by The Blues Foundation
Surprises come and go, but here's hoping that Connecticut's Ryan Hartt & the Blue Hearts are
around for a long, long time. A stripped-down four-piece outfit with octane to spare and the chops to
match, Hartt and the gang deal out some serious and smoldering jump, swing, and alley blues proving
that the West Coast isn't the only hotbed for this style. Hartt's harmonica is sizzling and thick showing
that he's listened to a wide range of players, from Little Walter to William Clarke, as well as Rod
Piazza, George Smith, and many others, even quoting Smith in the romping True Love. Guitar
chores are handled by Eric Ducoff, whose numerous influences are far too lengthy to list if his playing
here is any indication; he tears off bizarre phrases and searing riffs with ease and leaves the
grandstanding aside, delivering only what's necessary to raise the stakes. The rhythm section consists
of Steve Combs on the upright bass and drumming from Nick Toscano, while guests include Rick
Holmstrom who produced, Steve Mugalian on percussion and the Fisher-Price xylophone (no kiddin' - it
works too!), New Englanders Troy Gonyea and Nick Adams stepping in on guitar, and Mark Stevens
tackling piano duties. There's nothing pretentious about any of the tracks here and the level of
excitement is as consistent as the seriousness and goodtime attitude with Sallie Mae being a
lowdown Excello-flavored slow blues, the storming On My Mind, and the driving title track, all
with Hartt's thick and greasy harp, and Ducoff sizzling on a handful including the careening
Whizzbang, a brilliant instrumental, and I'd Be A Fool, a slow grinder with searing licks
and wicked tone. Made up of mostly original material, the songwriting is as solid as the playing and
shows that this band has done their homework, but what comes across more than anything is that this
band understands the nuances that make a set balanced. With over-production far too consistent
nowadays, the low-tech approach here is fresh and rewarding, another touch making it seem like this
crew just stepped out of the 1950s and into your living room. Great stuff.
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