That big, howling ‘Mississippi Sax‘ sound conveys the heart and soul of The Blues like nothing else, and it is in good hands with younger players like Sugar Blue, who invokes the spirit of the great Blues harp players like Little Walter and Rice ‘Sonny Boy II’ Miller in his work. Sugar’s spectacular runs and…

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Blues harp is perhaps the most expressive instrument in a classic Blues band line-up, and Jerry Portnoy must be one of a handful of men around today whose playing speaks with the voice straight out of 50s Chicago. With a fluency, range and emotional bite that is nothing short of thrilling, Jerry learned his trade…

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Chicago harp player Billy Boy learned from the best: legend has it that the kid knocked on John Lee ‘Sonny Boy’ Williamson‘s door and asked him how he played the harp. The patrician Sonny Boy gave the 13-year-old some lessons, but that tutoring was cut short when the maestro was murdered soon afterwards. Billy Boy…

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Driftin’ Slim was an Arkansas Bluesman who learned his harp playing with both ‘Sonny Boy’ Williamsons, and found a degree of local fame later on the West coast as a one-man-band. Elmon Mickle was born near Little Rock AK in 1919, and when he was young, he met John Lee ‘Sonny Boy’ Williamson, who kindly…

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‘Van the Man’ is a unique performer who crosses a lot of boundaries with his brand of ‘Celtic Soul’. Elements of Gospel, Folk and Blues are fused behind a vocal style that also draws heavily on wildly emotional Jazz phrasing. He revealed that he learned a lasting lesson from studying many early Louis Armstrong records,…

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Hammie Nixon was the long-time harp playing companion of Sleepy John Estes, whose thoughtful, delicate, country flavoured harp lines spoke of years long gone by, even as he recorded in the 80s. Hammie Nickerson was born in Brownsville TN in 1908 and orphaned as a young child. Noah Lewis, who went on to play with…

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In 1954, James Cotton was a teenage Memphis harp player who had cut a few tracks for Sun Records, when Muddy Waters showed up and offered him a place in his band. James grabbed the opportunity with both hands and stayed for thirteen years. When he went solo, James unleashed a great roaring Blues voice…

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Lazy Lester plays that easy rolling Swamp Blues that always makes you want to move your feet. Blowing a mellifluous harp and occasionally strumming a guitar or even a washboard, his laid back vocal style meant that Leslie Johnson of Torres Louisiana was given the name Lazy Lester. Legend has it that, in around 1955,…

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The first country Blues often featured the harmonica, or mouth harp. This cheap and portable instrument was a favourite with wandering musicians, or ‘footloose bards’ as they were known, and the wailing sound of the harp was a distinctive feature of their music, with it’s breathy quality of human speech. ‘Jaybird’ Coleman was one of…

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The Folk/Blues revival of the 50s brought many original Blues players to prominence, from old field hands like Mississippi John Hurt and Skip James, to mad characters like Furry Lewis and hidden treasures like Libba Cotten, but perhaps the most influential of all was Rev. Gary Davis. This gruff old ‘guitar evangelist’ had a fantastic…

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