While it may have been the guitar that dominated much of the past month here on our blog – between our coverage of Eric Clapton’s Pittsburgh show, the Crossroads Guitar Festival, and new albums from both Ronnie Earl and Ana Popovic – the next few weeks are looking to be particularly good ones for blues harmonica fans, with an upcoming release from harp master James Cotton and a pretty neat harmonica-themed collection of classics from Smithsonian Folkways.
But we can’t think of a better segue between these two sub-genres of the blues than the album we’re talking about today, from former Muddy Waters and Magic Slim band guitarist John Primer and ubiquitous harmonica man Bob Corritore, who together make a delightful pairing on the new Knockin’ Around These Blues (Delta Groove Music).
From the opening “The Clock” (Jimmy Reed), you can tell this one is going to be special – not that you’d expect anything less from these respected and familiar veterans of the blues, but this is even better than one could imagine, as the pair breezes through such early numbers as the slow “Blue and Lonesome” (Little Walter), the Primer original “When I Get Lonely,” and Lil’ Son Jackson’s “Cairo Blues” before things really start to get good with the passionate vocals and gritty harmonica of “Leanin’ Tree.” That’s followed by an instrumental “Harmonica Joyride” that is precisely what its name promises, before they dive into a superb version of Robert Lockwood Jr.’s “Little Boy Blue” that features forceful vocals from Primer as well as a nice piano solo from Barrelhouse Chuck, one of the many stellar backing musicians you’ll hear on this project, along with Billy Flynn and Chris James on guitar, Bob Stroger and Patrick Rynn on bass, and Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith and Brian Fahey on drums.
The shuffling, Willie Dixon-penned “Just Like I Treat You” and a solid “Man or Mouse” help to bring the album to its conclusion, with the slow blues of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Going Back Home” closing the album in a most appropriate fashion.
Primer’s guitar and vocals are both in fine form throughout, and Corritore’s harmonica licks plentiful, so even though there are only ten songs to enjoy here, there’s never a doubt that you’re getting your full money’s worth, including plenty of solos from not only Primer and Corritore, but many of the other talented band members as well.
Knockin’ around indeed, but this splendid collaboration between two true legends of the blues is also guaranteed to knock your socks off.