Back to Contents


Ange Amadei.jpg (3634 octets) Ange Amadei - Emotions

Ange’s style gets ever finer. He is still a maestro of high speed country harp and will certainly delight fans of Charlie McCoy. In this album, he sings a lot more and " dares " the French language thing. The result is a delightful and fresh mix of instrumentales and songs with a country or Irish flavour ("Envie d'Eire") where French adds a surprising colour. It’s a very original path that Ange is treading, even by French standards, and it works. - GS

Purchase Information Here

Blues Fools.jpg (4754 octets) Blues Fools - Fools in the Blues

It is very surprising to see how far reaching some American harp players have been. It's certainly the case of William Clarke whose influence can be heard in the playing of many harpers outside the US. Matyas Pribojszki, the harp player from Hungary's leading blues band, the "Blues Fools" certainly ackowledges that influence and even includes a tribute instrumental to Clarke called Mattack ! on this CD. Pribojszki has a throaty, earthy amplified sound that fits the West Coast style of this record well. It isn't amazingly original music by US standards, but it's as good as any of the other West Coast harp players out there. My only regret is that I would have loved to hear a blues sung in Hungarian. Not on this record ! - BF

Purchase Information Here

Brendan Power Live.jpg (2978 octets) Brendan Power - Live in Ireland

Brendan Power is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished players on both diatonic and chromatic, and one of the few to have really mastered that special 'groove' of Irish music. So it is startling and delightful to hear him live, with no artifices whatsoever, sounding so fresh and yet so articulate. Guitarist Andrew White is no mean performer himself, and all in all this makes for an excellent recording for all fans of Irish stuff, harmonica, Brendan or just fine music ! - BF

Purchase Information Here

Dennis Gruenling.jpg (3607 octets) Dennis Gruenling - Up All Night

Don't make no mistake, Dennis Gruenling is a great harp player and, as the comment says at the back of the CD, a dedicated student. His masters : Georges Smith undoubtedly on chromatic, Little Walter and Sonny Boy on diatonic. Needless to say that the idea here is to find the good old sound of yonder, with a swinging double-bass, jazzy drumming, Muddy or BB style guitar and even keyboard on a few tracks. The singing duties are left to Sandy Mack, who has something of James Harman, just not as good. My feeling on this album is ambiguous... If I talk a s ablues fan, I'd say that the vocals leave me cold, they are too flat and lack feeling. As a whole the record is very "dry", as if the reverb had gone on strike the day they recorded. The harp player in me can only commend the harp performance. Great sound, varied, well played. I don't think that this is the greatest blues album, but it's certainly a good Chicago harp album ! - NT

Buy from

James Cotton.jpg (2738 octets) James Cotton - Fire Down Under the Hill

James Cotton was always one of my favourite harp players. He managed to graft on his blues roots influences from rock, funk and jazz in a way that few others from his generation did. I usually enjoy his recordings, but this one disappoints me. There's a sameness to the tracks, in the way they're arranged, in the solos, etc. that feels a little stale. The old man can still play, and he sounds rootsier by the day, but that's OK. The problem lies more with the material, and possibly (dare I say it ?) with Telarc. It feels like this record has already been done elsewhere, only better and with more feeling and originality. It's not bad per se, mind you, if you like well polished acoustic blues. Just doesn't sound very fresh... - BF

Buy from Amazon.comBuy on

John Popper.jpg (3790 octets) John Popper - Zygote

This album was John Popper's first solo project, and my feeling is that is doesn't quite make it on its own. Popper's Blues Traveler background is very strongly felt, and he doesn't quite manage to sound different enough for this album not to be compared to BT albums. And the comparison is not in Zygote's favor. It's not a horrible album, mind you, it's just not that interesting. Popper's playing is fast and high-pitched, as usual. Some of his lyrics are, as usual, quirky, sometimes funny, but he plays too many ballads and the consistency of the album suffers from it. All in all, I'd say you'll probably enjoy this if you're a die-hard Popper fan, but otherwise you're better off checking out some BT stuff or John's other side project "Frogwings". - BF

Buy from Amazon.comBuy from

Mark Dufresne.jpg (3353 octets) Mark Dufresne - There's a song in there

A nice blues album with compositions that don’t sound like covers. The band, made up of excellent musicians (Larry Johnson, Jill Kaplan) carries Mark’s voice (a bit too whiny for my taste) and his rootsy jumpy harp style. Mark may not be an innovator of the harmonica, be it diatonic or chromatic, but what he does he does very well indeed. A minor criticism on the production side : Mark’s voice is slightly drowned in the mix which takes some presence away from him (unless I’m going deaf…) - DC

Buy from

Matthew Skoller.jpg (4129 octets) The Matthew Skoller Band - Shoulder in the Wind

Hearing Matthew Skoller play on Larry Garner’s album left me frustrated of not being able to hear more of his playing, so I was impatient to hear Matthew’s new album. I can safely say that I was not disappointed : wow, what an album ! This is Chicago Blues at its best ! Matthew’s harmonica playing never aims at dazzling, just expressing. It’s very deep, very sober, and travels through 1st, 2nd and even 3rd position in order to serve the music. The rhythm section is very tight and creates very hot and steamy atmospheres (Delta Combat Zone). A lot of attention has obviously been put in the production, Matthew’s voice comes forward and is even supported by backing singers on several tracks. The harp sound is clear and lets every single inflection of the breath come through. I can’t wait for these guys to come near Paris ! - DC

Purchase Information Here

Pat Ramsey.jpg (3069 octets) Pat Ramsey and the Blues Disciples - Live at the Grand

Pat Ramsey is one powerful player. He plays a gutsy amplified diatonic that really cuts through the sound of his band. His brand of blues is further enhanced by a deep, powerful and soulful voice, a fact rare enough amongst harp players who sing to be mentioned. This live recording delivers the goods and certainly gives a good idea of what his live shows must be. It's a real shame that the keyboard player isn't on par with the rest of the band and sounds very amateursih. That's a minor gripe though, so if you're a fan of good rocking blues, Pat Ramsey os one guy you must listen to ! - BF

Purchase Information Here

Charles Leighton.jpg (4739 octets) Charles Leighton - Classical

This CD contains a selection of pieces drawn from schools of composition ranging from the expressionist to the neo-classical. Charley Leighton's ability to 'sing' through his instrument adds new meaning to the term 'song without words', with his phrasing, expression, and tone bringing the music to life as each piece tells its own story. Rather than simply hearing playing of the highest standard, one finds themself drawn into the somber and reflective mood that dominates this album. At the same time anyone who plays the chromatic harmonica can't help but be awed by the mastery of the instrument Charley demonstrates. While Larry Adler has often criticized many technically adept players for their lack of expression in slower passages this album repeatedly demonstrates that Charley is equally at home in all situations, from the most contemplative largo to the most demanding allegro passage. Charley continues to be an inspiration to all players who hear him, and one can only hope that this important CD will inspire both harmonicists and composers alike to advance the repertoire and level of playing in this genre of music. - PF

Purchase Information Here

Damien Masterson.jpg (5644 octets) Damien Masterson - Cubacambio

Damien's debut recording Intercambio was a joyful and superb album of latin music with a delightful style of gutsy chromatic that changed from the usual mellow Toots like tone so many players tone. Cubacambio is in a similar vein and features Cuban music. Although surprising and enjoyable in its own way, it doesn't quite carry over the flame of that first recording. There are some really good tracks on there, like the opening Malecon Blue, but it lacks a certain consistency and spirit. It's still an interesting experience for those who like cuban music, but I'd rather recommend Damien's first record to those who have never heard his stuff. - BF

Purchase Information Here

El Fish.jpg (2864 octets) El Fish - Wisteria

Belgium's biggest blues rock band had not released any album since the 1998 Rewinder which showcased their brand of 'modern' rock, very groovy and still very bluesy. Wisteria has pushed that envelope further, to the point where the blues roots of El Fish are hard to identify. This is a very dark album, verging on alternative rock and heavy with atmosphere. At times it feels like the moodiest period of 'The Cure'. You can still hear Filip Catseel's bluesy guitar and Steven de Bruyn's gutsy harp, but the context is very modern sounding, and it works. This album will also have to go down in history as the first one to sample Rice Miller's voice, on a kind of acoustic rap thing called 'Sonny Boy's Advice' ! - BF

Purchase Information Here

Flavio Guimaraes.jpg (4385 octets) Flavio Guimaraes - On the loose

The main harp player from Brazil, Flavio is a very interesting blues player, with lots of feeling and a good sense of when to play and when not to play (a rare feature of any instrumentalist !) This album has one track dedicated to William Clarke, and the influence cannot be denied, especially on jumpy 3rd position tunes like"Blowin' the family jewels". He has gone beyond that though and the more unusual tracks like the funky instrumental "Berimbau Nao E Gaita" feature really nice playing. He's definetely worth discovering ! - BF

Purchase Information Here

gage.jpg (4548 octets) Dave Gage - Love you just the same

Dave Gage is more a rock harp player than a blues harp player, although his blues background certainly shows on this record. The record features a variety of rock numbers with a few slower pieces interspersed. Dave plays very powerfully and fast, clearly treading the territory of an electric rock guitar, using a variety of effects and distorsions to get a dynamite sound. He plays mostly diatonic, but there is a very interesting intro on chromatic to the cover of Stormy Monday. There are quite a few blues covers on this record actually, and I wish that the choice of repertoire had been more rock oriented, since I sometimes feel that Dave and his boys stay too close from blues and it hinders their capacity to be different. Still, if you like rock music and a poweful harp sound, you should like this record. - BF

Purchase Information Here

Jim Liban.jpg (3795 octets) Jim Liban - Blues for Shut-ins

Here is an album that should seduce most lovers of the good old Chicago blues. The ryhthm section is tight, no frills, very minimal in its backing of a lazy harmonica style. Jim Liban switches easily from a green bullet sound to an acoustic sound, from hand effects to horn section style octave slaps. Jim Liban has certainly digested his Sonny Boy, Junior Wells and Little Walter influences. Jim is very efficient in his riffs, but sometimes one would like him to play longer solos and develop them a little bit more. The production is good, and the album includes a third of self-penned songs and the rest of well-chosen covers, including a great version of the famous " Mean old world ". This is a very nice album ; if you don’t know Jim Liban yet, this is the way to start doing so ! - DC

Purchase Information Here

Naco Goni.jpg (5157 octets) Naco Goni - Naco y los Bluescavidas

This is your classic bar gig live recording, except it's in Madrid, Spain, not Austin, TX. Naco Goni is a spanish power player who can certainly play his blues lines fast and furious. In fact, his acoustic playing is even better, as apparent on the cover of "Five Long Years", and it's a shame he doesn't use it more often. There's a good mix of rythms and styles on the recording, from funky to slow blues to shuffle. Chromatic fans will appreciate the guest starring of Spain's number 1 chromatic player Antonio Serrano, who plays sweet and fast in a duel of harps on "Harmonica Rag". All in all a good recording (and blues in Spanish does sound cool !) - BF

No Purchase Information

Ternaire Madness.jpg (21656 octets) Greg Szlapczynski - Ternaire Madness

Greg Szlapczynski is probably one of the most innovative diatonic harp players of his generation, and will likely be a landmark player of the 21st century. This close guarded secret was known only to those happy few who managed to get hold of his self-produced debut album "Ternaire Madness" until he released his second album "Gregtime" in 1999. Now, thanks to his growing success, "Ternaire Madness" is finally re-released, and it hasn't aged a bit. Greg's compositions go from jazz to jazzy to funky to rock, without omitting the obligatory tributes to blues and country. What you will find here is a fresh sounding, accessible and yet virtuoso harp player that will get you wondering "why has no one ever played this on harp before ?" - BF

Buy on