Hats off to Mark "T-Bone" Townsend of Mugzee's in Rochester. Without a doubt, he has the best blues line up in the midwest. Rochester should be proud of the high quality entertainment that Mugzee's offers its community week after week, month after month, year after year. If you haven't made it to Mugzee's yet, get up off the couch and treat yourself, it's worth the trip. This show was no exception. West Coast harp master Mark Hummel doesn't tour Minnesota very often, but he did make a rare appearance at Mugzee's in August. In fact, this wasn't even an official tour. Hummel was in town
vacationing with his girlfriend and her family in and around the Bemidji area, but he knew he had to squeeze in a couple of dates while he was here. It's in the blood.
Calling upon some old friends in the Minneapolis area, he put together a supporting band that would blow anyone away. After playing with Shorty Lenoir in Sue Foley's band in Canada a few years back, he knew who to call on first. Shorty will absolutely amaze you with his guitar work. He truly has a 'bag o' licks'. I don't think I heard him repeat a lick all night. Next, Rob Stupka on drums was the obvious choice. Rob can do it all, there is no one better. If you haven't heard of Stupka, you've been hiding under a rock. Add John Schroeder on Bass and you've got a killer rhythm section that no one can match. With almost no time to rehearse, these guys sounded like they had been touring together for years. Then, to top it off, Ev Smithson (harpman of the Twin Cities band The Alley Katz) leant Hummel his Ampeg/Harmony harp amp stack to use while in town and Mark went nuts, he absolutely loved it.
With SIX top selling harp CD's out on such labels as Tone-Cool, Flying Fish &
Double Trouble, Hummel is one of the top "in demand" harp blowers on the
Hummel whipped out one great tune after another; "Slippin' & Slidin'," "Feel
Like Rockin'," "That's Alright," "Tryin' To Make A Livin'," "Rockin' All The Time"
and "Po' Man's Shoe Shine" off his latest Tone-Cool CD "Low Down to Uptown". Mark is also a great vocalist and he proved it all night long.
At times he sounded like Little Walter, Big Walter, George "Harmonica" Smith, James Cotton and Sonny Boy I & II. If you closed your eyes, you'd swear they were all in the room. His version of Jimmy Reed's "Honest I Do" gave me the chills. "West Coast Flood," a slow instrumental reverie that would make George Smith smile broadly, was a treat. For things off the beaten path there was "Lucky Kind Of Fella" in which Mark turned his chromatic into an accordion to get a kind of Cajun feeling laid down over a rollicking, catchy beat. Hummel is the master of the chromatic.
It was a great show. Topping off the night, we all got a chance to sit around and share some old road stories and some new ones. Mark talked about crossing paths in the past with George "Harmonica" Smith and William Clarke and you could just tell that he had a great deal of respect for these two men, both as players and as human beings. It's no wonder that Mark Hummel turned out to be such a great player and a class guy himself.
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