It's hard to think of another musical instrument that is so closely associated with the blues as the humble harmonica or "harp". Since the 1920s - one hundred years after its invention - blues musicians have taken advantage of its low cost, volume and portability and have made some of the most influential of 20th century music. In the hands of early masters like DeFord Bailey and Jaybird Coleman the harp rose above its earlier status of a simple novelty instrument, while Jazz Gillum and John Lee "Sonny Boy #1" Williamson helped to define the sound of post-war blues bands. From the early 1950s, the harmonica became a key component of the blues almost entirely due to the recordings of the musicians on this compilation.
A quick glance at the track listing reveals that just about every post-war harmonica player of note is here together with some rather more (undeservedly) obscure names. (No Sonny Terry, you say? Well, he's blowing on Cousin Leroy's Up The River). Legendary figures rub shoulders with rather less familiar names. To the initiated, however, Eddie Hope's A Fool No More, Papa Lightfoot's Wine, Women And Whiskey and Little Willy Foster's Little Girl are long-time classics. Legendary Sun recordings like Jimmy (de Berry) & Walter (Horton)'s Easy and Dr Ross' Chicago Breakdown are interspersed with masterpieces from the Chess studios by Little Walter (Juke) and Jimmy Rogers (If It Ain't Me) and Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Champion Jack Dupree, Willie Dixon, Bo Diddley and Eddie Taylor are among the accompanists.
Recorded between 1947 and 1968, this collection includes several of the greatest examples of harp blues ever recorded and with several tracks appearing on CD for the first time, it's bound to be a popular blues release on Ace.
By Big Joe Louis