Rich Harper – Ellwood and Me | Album Review

richharpercdRich Harper – Ellwood and Me

Kanawha Street Records

www.richharper.com

CD: 10 Songs; 37:43 Minutes       

Styles: Contemporary and Traditional Acoustic Blues

In the blues, as in life, there are no guarantees. Sophisticated CD cover art and a world-famous record label don’t automatically ensure the quality of the music on the album within. Popular endorsements may be strong, but they can also mislead. The reverse is also true. The cover of Los Angeles-based Rich Harper’s seventh release, Ellwood and Me, features a simple photo of Rich, his guitar, and his beloved cat Ellwood by his side. Harper’s label is Kanawha Street Records, which may not be on par with Alligator or Blind Pig, but could be if it keeps featuring talented mavens such as he. Rich’s acoustic album is so marvelous that this reviewer played it for four straight hours, during a marathon PC gaming session of Fallout: New Vegas. Like the game, Ellwood and Me has a classic Old West feel: crisp, unpretentious, and putting listeners in mind of saloons and gunfights at high noon. Ten original songs set a rootin-tootin, good-time mood.

According to Harper’s website, “With the success of their debut CD, Don’t Think Just Play, the Rich Harper Blues Band was not only selected as one of Amazon.com’s prestigious “Emerging New Blues Artists”, but Taxim Records, a German label, joined the group’s growing list of blues fans…Radio stations worldwide welcomed [one of their new CD’s] with open arms, and this time one of the cuts, “As She Moved In (My Guitar Moved Out)”, topped Rolling Stone Magazine’s “MP3 & More Blues Chart” at #1.”

Recorded in Thailand, Sweden and the U.S., this CD features Rich Harper on guitars and vocals, John Stenber on upright bass, Danny Leoni and David Lucas on acoustic bass, Chris Cooke and Sam Orrico on drums, Mats Qwarfordt and Shannon Williford on harmonica, Keith Nolan and Jake Hill on piano and B3 organ, Brian Kramer on National Duolian Resonator guitar, and Bert Dievert on mandolin.

The following three songs are the ones that’ll make die-hard acoustic fans go, “Yee-haw!”

Track 01: “When Dad Paid All the Bills” – Being an adult is grand, except when one has bills in one’s hand. This CD’s opener is an ode to the carefree days of our narrator’s youth: “While Dad made a living working overtime, I was fooling around with only one thing on my mind. Yeah, it was easy then, easy just to chill – and get a thrill. Life was easier when Dad paid all the bills.” The traditional blues rhythm will please purists, as will the catchy sing-along lyrics.

Track 05: “Devil He Done Told Me” – With a haunting intro that would make Stephen King quake in his boots, this song’s about a seductress that even Satan spurned: “The Devil, he done told me he couldn’t keep you in line. You always drove him crazy, always playing with his mind…” Harp player Mats Qwarfordt and mandolinist Brian Kramer play with frenzied fire.

Track 06: “Why (Ally)” – This is one of the best acoustic dancefloor stomps yours truly has ever heard. Jon Stenber provides the irresistible upright bass backbeat, and Chris Cooke joins in on drums. “You did this to me – whyyyyy?” Harper laments, and his voice is pointedly perfect.

Acoustic blues cravers, kick up your heels to Ellwood and Me!

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