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The Hudson River Rats

The Hudson River Rats - Get it while you can

The Hudson River Rats cannot be described as harp band, even though frontman Rob Paparozzi is certrainly a harp player (more on this below). Essentially, the Rats are a Rythm n' Blues band who venture on blues territory quite a bit, and on funky lands quite a bit as well.

Their first album, aptly called "First Take" was a very strong effort and showcased a tight and mature band with very tasteful playing on the part of all its members. It also featured the now near classic harp instrumental "Shame, shame, shame" and the astounding Paparozzi penned "I drink muddy waters"

Rob is a harp player, no doubt about that. But he is also one hell of a singer. There are not many guys I can think of in the blues or rythm n' blues world who have that combination of power and subtlety in their voice, combined for maximum expressiveness. Needless to say I anticipated this second Hudson River Rats record impatiently. I was not disappointed !

"Get it while you" is probably more consistent than "First Take" : it features a mix of revamped blues classics ("You better watch yourself"), stax style R&B ("Don't knock it"), new orleans style ("Astronaut Lover") and JB funky soul ("Mickey Mouse Boardinghouse"). Even though there's a real mix of styles and influences, they blend well together, and the strong presence of horns and hammond bring a cohesiveness to the arrangements.

Now onto Rob's harp playing. Rob is an amazing harp player. When you hear his stuff, you think 'hey, that's dead simple !' And usually it is, only you can't play it the way he does ! Rob has an ease of playing, a fluency that only the greatest interpreters acquire with time. He has some Little Walter and some Butterfield influence, but he has gone way beyond that, even though the groove remains.

Most songs on this release feature harp (diatonic mostly, although Rob also plays chromatic amazingly well, none of that third position rut with him...). The harp solos on "You better watch yourself", and the sinister Roy Buchanan slow blues "Drowning on dry land" are nothing short of amazing. That man's got the tone and the feel, let me tell you !

This record is a must buy, especially for people who are not in a   "blues-only" kind of taste, and for anyone who hasn't had the chance to hear Rob's playing and singing. I've heard that Rob has a project of recording a Butterfield tribute album with a big band. That should be a treat for harp players ! In the meantime, "Get it while you can" is the next best thing !

Benoît Felten

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