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Ain’t Easy No More
(Elecro-Fi Records, 2006 #3398)
Review Date: October 2007
by Bill Halaszynski
The title of Mark Hummel’s latest, Ain’t Easy No More,
comes from the album’s fourth track, “Big Easy (Ain’t
Easy No More),” which uses Crescent City rhythms to
lament the conditions in New Orleans post Hurricane
Katrina. It’s a rare, politically charged statement
from a performer known for his harmonica virtuosity
and West Coast elegance meets Chicago grit sound. It
works well, however, within the context of the
concise, punchy songs that populate this decidedly up
tempo set. Nothing exceeds five minutes in length
with the majority of titles falling within 2:30 to
4:30 range. The sprightly pace allows nothing to get
bogged down. The arrangements leave no fat on the
bone, allowing Hummel’s virtuoso harp and surprisingly
vital vocals a chance to shine.
The album opens with a careening take of Ray Charles’
“Get On The Right,” that sets the tone while
establishing Hummel’s Jazz inflected vocal approach as
a key component. Up next is Muddy Waters’, “She’s Got
It,” with that signature stop time in full evidence,
showing that he can still travel the road from up town
to lowdown without skipping a beat. Hummel is too
often considered a great player with more chops than
heart, but ably proves here that he’s got all the soul
in the world and can infuse the wide range of styles
at hand with whatever is needed to make the listener
feel as well as hear the sounds. The rhythm section
of Marty Dodson(drums) and Steve Wolf(bass) lays down
a rock solid bottom end while the rolling piano of Bob
Welsh combines with Charles Wheal’s guitar to drive
this well-oiled machine with finesse and taste. Ain’t
Easy No More is a great example of just how special
the modern West Coast sound is.
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