Super Chikan & Terry Harmonica Bean – From Hill Country Blues to Mississippi Delta Blues
Wolf Records CD 120.040
15 songs – 63 minutes
Guitarist James “Super Chikan” Johnson and multi-instrumentalist Terry “Harmonica” Bean serve up a treat for anyone with a love for North Mississippi blues on this one, trading off on an hour-long set of solo cuts that put their talents on display.
Based out of Clarksdale in the Delta, Super Chikan is a former truck driver who turned to music after writing songs as he whiled away the hours behind the wheel. He’s been a recording artist since 1997, when he released Blues Come Home to Roost, an album produced by Big Jack Johnson and Jim O’Neal, the founder of both Living Blues magazine and the Rooster Blues label.
A humorous man who picked up his nickname as a child because of his fascination with the birds, Chik’s a slide guitarist of the first order who usually fronts an all-electric band, The Fighting Cocks – an anachronism because the all-female lineup. He’s also a talented luthier. Constructed out of whatever he has handy, they’re highly prized works of art, not the basic cigar-box constructions that flood the market today.
Bean, meanwhile, hails from the Hill Country town of Pontotoc about 100 miles to the east, where he split his time working in a furniture factory during the week and played harp and guitar in juke joints on the weekend before cutting his first disc, Here I Am Baby in 2001. The duo have independently released about a dozen albums in the past two decades, delivering music that crosses multiple aspects of the blues.
They join forces here thanks to Austrian entrepreneur and music lover Hannes Folterbauer, who’s released more than 400 Chicago and country blues albums on Wolf Records, the label he’s operated out of Vienna for the past 30 years. He captured the 15 cuts here during a trip to the U.S. in 2018.
Super Chikan kicks off the action with a trio of originals: “Tin Top Shak,” a pleasing recollection of living in the country in a tin-topped shack, “Down in the Mississippi Delta,” a tribute to both Muddy Waters and Elmore James, and “Wavy Thoughts,” a boogie that describes watching the mighty Mississippi flow. Terry takes over for double-shot of his own, trading licks on guitar and harp for the unhurried ballad “Leaving Blues” and the rapid-fire “Boogie with Me.”
Always respectful of his forebears, Chik offers up a spoken intro before paying “Tribute to Jimmy Reed,” borrowing the chord structure of “Baby What You Want Me to Do,” which flows into the finger-picked “Poor Broke Boy.” Bean returns for a tasty take on Muddy’s “Who Gonna Be Your Sweet Man When I’m Gone” and “Mississippi Walking Blues,” a reinvention of Robert Johnson’s “Walking Blues.”
Super Chikan delivers a tip of the fedora to Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas – he lives a short drive from the other states – in “Sippi Seekan Saw,” yields to Terry for a take on the traditional “Black Cat Bone” and returns for two more originals — “Fred’s Dollar Store” and the stylish, sweet “Hug Me, Don’t Bug Me (Drugs Is Already Bugging Me)” – before Bean closes the set with a cover of the Slim Harpo standard “I Got Love If You Want It” and his own “2018 — Doin’ My Own Thing.”
Both Johnson and Bean are masters of their craft. If you’re a fan of intimate, down home blues, this set’s definitely right for you. It’s available through most major retailers.