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Slawek Wierzcholski

Slawek Wierzcholski - i Nocna Zmiana Bluesa

Slawek Wierzcholski is the top harp player in Poland. Not only has he released many albums and played with about everybody in Europe, but he's very active in his own country for the promotion of blues and local blues bands. He hosts a weekly radio show and is generally "Mr. Harp" in Poland.

This CD, from what I understand (I don't read Polish ;-) is a best of Slawek's many albums. It features songs in many different styles and with very varied instrumentation, all sung in Polish. Most of them (but not all) feature Slawek on harp, and three tracks even feature Charlie Musselwhite as a guest harp player.

Unlike many non-american blues fans, Slawek has managed to get beyond the imitation of the music he likes and made the style his own. There's a strong blues feel on most of the album here, but many songs feature traditional East-European instruments, including some form of accordeon and gypsy violin (like in  Polski Blues) and similar instruments. Along with the Polish singing and Slawek's increadibly deep and growly voice (he should be called The Polish Wolf !), it really works.

Slawek's harp playing is no less interesting : he has a strong vibrato and can play those melancholic eastern tunes real sweet, but it comes to rocking the blues, he can combine the deep tone of the classic blues masters and the speed and technical chops of the fastest players out there. He often plays third position on the ballsier tunes, and his mastery is quite frankly amazing.

All in all, I'd say that you have to be open minded to enjoy this record, since it is quite different from what American or even European ears are used to, but if you think you've got the right frame of mind, then you should go for it : it's fun, fresh and will certainly surprise you in more ways than one.

Benoît Felten

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