Tony Holiday calls upon some talented friends with Porch Sessions

It’s been more than 75 years since Alan Lomax traveled to the Mississippi Delta to make his field recordings of bluesmen like Son House, Muddy Waters and David “Honeyboy” Edwards, and, while the internet and other technological advances have made it much easier to discover new music from remote corners of the world, it’s kind of neat to hear musicians still at times coming back to the field recording technique, as is the case with this latest release from singer and harmonica player Tony Holiday, who, joined by guitar player Landon Stone, traveled across the U.S. to record numbers on the front porches of such friends as Charlie Musselwhite, John Nemeth, Kid Ramos, Bob Corritore, and Kid Andersen, also inviting musicians like John Primer, James Harman, Mitch Kashmar, and others along to help make Porch Sessions (VizzTone Records) as authentic a downhome blues album as you’ll hear.

Every track here is solid, with perhaps the biggest gems including a pair of Muddy Waters-style songs — the slow blues “They Call Me John Primer” and uptempo shuffle “Tell Me Baby” — featuring John Primer on guitar and vocals and Bob Corritore on harmonica; a grungy, creeping “Woman Named Trouble” with John Nemeth and Jake Friel on harmonica and vocals that could easily be mistaken for a number off one of Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite’s collaborative albums; the soulful, closing “This Time I’m Gone for Good” with vocals from William Kidd; a somewhat jazzy “That’s Alright” that does include Musselwhite on harmonica along with Aki Kumar, who also provides vocals; a gritty, distant-vocaled “Blues Hit Big Town” (Junior Wells) with Nemeth on vocals and harmonica; a country-blues “Goin’ to Court” that includes James Harman on vocals and harmonica and Kid Ramos on guitar; and the slick, West Coast-sounding “Coin Operated Woman” that also allows us to hear Holiday on vocals, joined by Rockin’ Johnny Burgin on guitar.

If you aren’t familiar with Holiday, you will be with at least some of the guests that pack this album, and, although the number of guests does make it difficult to assess Holiday’s individual playing abilities (with one, sometimes even two, other harmonica players joining him on many of the tracks), you do get to hear him solo on several songs, which helps confirm what one might suspect: that the participation of other such established musicians in this project is, at least in part, a testament to Holiday’s own talents. Porch Sessions is a great introduction to Holiday (and a darn fine recording overall) that guarantees we’ll also be checking out Holiday’s next album!

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