"Keeping the Blues Alive Award" Achievement for Blues on the Internet Presented by The Blues Foundation
Guitarist/singer Zac Harmon was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. During his time in the South, Harmon worked as a guitarist for such notables as the late Z.Z. Hill and blind harpman, Sam Myers. In 1980, Harmon left Mississippi and relocated to Los Angeles, were he took up working as a studio musician, producer and songwriter. Since his migration West, Zac has worked with a number of musical names including Brian Wilson, Evelyn "Champagne" King, Freddie Jackson and Alexander O'Neal, just to name a few.
Live At Babe & Ricky's Inn represents the culmination of Zac Harmon's dream; to record his very own blues project, embodying the Mississippi blues sound. The result of Harmon's "dream" is an exceptional ten song recording that includes eight live cuts from Zac's show at Babe & Ricky's Inn in Los Angeles, California and two studio cuts that can be compared to their live counterparts from earlier in the recording. Having never heard of Zac Harmon before being introduced to Live At Babe & Ricky's Inn, I must say that I was definitely impressed by the quality of the music and Harmon's guitar and vocal style.
Live At Babe & Ricky's Inn opens with an up tempo instrumental entitled "Yazoo City" that includes the initial guitar riffs by Mr. Harmon and some burning sax by Andre Delano. The band is very tight and gets the crowd into the performance right from the first searing notes from Zac Harmon's guitar. The following song "Forty Days" keeps the tempo raging with more great guitar, foot stomping piano by keyboardist and co-producer Christopher Troy and the first inclusion of Zac Harmon's vocal prowess.
Harmon slows things down a bit for "Stormin' In Mississippi," keeps the fire burning in his guitar while providing some nice bluesy vocals. This is followed by "Full Figured Woman" another slow blues with soulful vocals and steamy guitar. Troy provides some nice piano fills behind Harmon's vocals/guitar and the rest of the excellent band pounds relentlessly along with the song. The lyrics make it perfectly clear that Harmon doesn't want "no skinny women," just the full-figured variety to suit his tastes.
On "The Blues In You," Harmon and company generate a different feel to the music, toning down the guitar, brining out the keyboard and horns and smoothing out the sound. Harmon becomes more of a crooner on this song, bring a bit more of a soul or rhythm & blues sound to the music. Christopher Troy puts in a good effort on this song on electric piano and organ, followed by another nice sax solo by Andre Delano.
Harmon closes out the song with another excellent guitar solo, this one a bit more muted/abbreviated than on the previous cuts. The following song, "I Got News For You," maintains the same prominent keyboard/sax sound as "The Blues In You" with a nice shuffle beat. "I Got News For You" puts a bit more emphasis on Harmon's guitar for the solo break with the sax and keyboards remaining in the background.
The next song on Live At Babe & Ricky's Inn, "Alberta," is an abrupt departure from the previous feel developed on the recording, leaving the blues and taking on more of a cajun/zydeco feel complete with rubboard and accordion. No credit is given on the CD for the excellent accordion solo on "Alberta," but it is worth noting nevertheless. The final live cut on Live At Babe & Ricky's Inn, "Smile," moves back to a more soulful sound for this medium tempo, piano laden tune with a tasty solo by guitarist Dennis Jones. As the band moves towards the close of the song, it builds to a nice crescendo and a greater sense of excitement from the notably appreciative audience.
Not to be forgotten, Live At Babe & Ricky's Inn includes two studio cuts, both previously included in the live portion of the CD. The studio version of "Forty Days" is musically the equivalent of the live version although the tempo is much slower than the live version and not quite as spontaneous as the live version. However, Harmon still provides some excellent guitar/vocals and the cut includes some nice harmonica fills by Jeff Stone. The studio version of "Stormin' In Mississippi" puts more significant emphasis on the added harmonica not included in the live version. While my preference on "Forty Days" would be the live version, my favorite for "Stormin' In Mississippi" is the studio cut which seems to offer a more emotional performance.
Live At Babe & Ricky's Inn by Zac Harmon is an excellent debut CD from the Mississippi, turned L.A. guitarist/singer/songwriter. If you are interested in this recording, it can be purchased easily by visiting www.towerrecords.com. Hopefully, this will not be the last solo effort by Zac Harmon and will serve as an intro for this fine musician to a larger, national audience.
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