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Four Aces And A Harp


Review by Nick of Chris Harper Four Aces and a Harp I have been to the dimly lit Chicage Blues clubs in my youth, as well as having heard some of the best the genre has produced, so when I say that Chicago Blues is one of the “tightest” of the Blues genres – I mean it's SO-O-O tight that it squeaks when it walks. Parts of this cd do just that. Coming right out of the box, we get treated to one of the best and tightest cuts of the electric side of the offering - “Hand Me Down My Cane”. From there we segue into an acoustic cover of Willie Dixon's “Down In The Bottom”, then onto another acoustic cover of Lucille Bogan's “Sloppy Drunk”. “I Smell Trouble” is an electric and gritty collaboration sung so masterfully by Jimmy Burns in such a way that makes the listener feel that they are in the same room, just feeling the misery and trouble pouring out. “Blues Is My Life” is written and performed by Swississippi Chris Harper (who actually blows harp on all the cuts on this cd). Ironically, the style of the song itself is more speakeasy jazz than blues. Same goes for the cover of the old Ellington number, “Don't Get Around Much Anymore”. Speaking of harp – it gets played over the top on “Next Time You See Me”; otherwise this electric version would have sounded as well in acoustic mode. Same goes for an electric cover of Lightnin Hopkin's “Mojo Hand” - way over the top on harp. Another Chris Harper tune, “You Make Me Fly” plays off the mouth harp versus the piano, and I have to say it was really good. “Fattening Frogs For Snakes (Took Me A Long Time)” is a foot-tapping and tight number, with some tasty (albeit brief) solos on guitar, harmonica, and duet by the same. “What's Wrong” makes me want to stand up and shout out the nswer – practice!. This sounds like it was recorded on the first take, and would have been much tighter after a few more tries. “Born In Arkansas” highlights Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, where the songwriter sings, plays drums (he is revered as one of the greatest shuffle drummers of all time), and duels his countrified harp against Chris' urban mouth harp. “Evil Going On” brings out the growling Tail Dragger in a tasty rendition of an old Willie Dixon classic. Another great acoustic cut is the classic “Forty And Forty Nights”, as is the cover of Sonny Boy Williamson's “Eyesight To The Blind”. “Long Distance Call” is a misnomer, for if you close your eyes and just listen, you'll hear almost surely what sounds like Muddy Waters playing slide right in front of you (it isn't, of course, but an outstanding reproduction by Little Frank Krakowski). “Worried Life Blues” is an excellent showcase for Little Frank Krakowski as well as Swississippi Chris Harper, with an ear to the backup musicians on drums and fender bass, as well as piano – all well-played. I take off my hat here. – Steven “Nick” Nickelson

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

The opinions expressed in these reviews are those of the individual volunteers that submitted the article and do not necessarily reflect the views of WYCE or GRCMC; nor its staff, donors, or affiliates.