Mitch Kashmar – West Coast Toast
11 tracks/48:32 running time
Santa Barbara born and bred Mitch Kashmar has put in purt near 40 years in the music business. He joined his first group, The Pontiax in 1980. In the mid-’80s, they recorded a now out of print album originally independently produced, then released on Belgium’s Blue Sting Records, entitled 100 Miles To Go, which furthered their reach and fan base to include Canada, Europe and points beyond.
Moving on to a solo career in the ’90s, Kashmar’s career steadily picked up steam and, in 2006 broke through with a landmark recording called Nickels and Dimes. In 2007 he was nominated as the harmonica Instrumentalist of the year at the Blues Music Awards.
Adding to his resume was his stint in the Lonnie Jordan/Jerry Goldstein version of War from 2006-2011, where he recreated the soulful licks of War’s original harp player, the great Lee Oskar.
West Coast Toast is Kashmar’s contribution to the West Coast harmonica legacy created by George “Harmonica” Smith who settled in L.A. in the mid ’50s and spawned a legion of players in his wake. It is a spate of originals and covers that showcase Kasmar’s songwriting, vocals and interpretation of classic Blues songwriters like Willie Dixon, Henry Glover, Lowell Fulson, Billy Boy Arnold and Sonny Boy Williamson I.
Straight out of the gate on track 1, “East of 82nd Street,” penned by Kashmar, has his harp wailing like a California Mountain Jack. Oxymoron aside, this cat can really blow. Kudos to the sound engineer Doug Messenger for dialing in that ’50s radio feel. Speaking of feeling, Tr. 1 feels like that streamline train that Jessie Mae Hemphill wrote and sang about.
Other hittin’ tracks that Kashmar wrote include tracks 4 and 7; “The Petroleum Blues,” and the slow draggy “Mood Indica.”
On the cover side of town, Kashmar gives “Young Girl,” his treatment. The song was originally written by the great Henry Glover and released on King Records by Little Willie John as a Doo-Woopish R&B belter. Here it is transformed into a swingin’ Blues groove that accents his harmonica virtuosity.
In conjunction with the afore mentioned harmonica virtuosity is the swingin’ cast of players in the band. The heralded Junior Watson on guitar, Fred Kaplan on keys, Bill Stuve on bass and Marty Dodson on drums all provide deft accompaniment.
If you are keeping track of the state of harmonica driven Blues, this one should be added to your collection. Novice harpists take note!