Big Harp George – Cut My Spirit Loose | Album Review

Big Harp George – Cut My Spirit Loose

Blues Mountain Records

13 tracks/55 minutes

Big Harp George is George Bisharat, a former criminal defense attorney, law professor and political law commentator who gave all that up to become a blues singer, songwriter, and chromatic harmonica player. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and blows some uniquely mean harp. This is his fifth release, and is his best yet.

George began his musical life in 2014 with Chromaticism, a Blues Blast and BMA Best New Artist Debut nominated album. He did not rest on his laurels, releasing Wash My Horse in Champagne in 2016, Uptown Cool in 2018, and then Living in the City in 2020. Each new album garnered him more and more attention and accolades, and this latest release showcases his talents and skills with a dozen new songs and one really well-crafted cover.

George handles the lead vocals and harp. Chris Burns is on keys and Kid Anderson is on guitar and also adds other stringed instruments, drums and vibraphone on some tracks. Drums and percussion duties are shared between Derrick D’Mar Martin and June Core, and Joe Kyle, Jr. is on the bass. There is a lot of great horn work here with Michael Peloquin in tenor throughout and is on baritone sax on two cuts; Doug Rowan is also on baritone sax, Ed Morrison and Jeff Lewis are on trumpet, and Mike Rinta is on trombone while also adding tuba on a track. Ben Torres plays the flute on one cut. Backing vocalists are Lisa Leuchner Andersen (two tracks), Loralee Christensen (one track) and are predominantly handled by the Sons of the Soul Revivers (James Dwayne and Walter Morgan). Lastly, Lulu Bisharat barks on the sixth cut. Chris Burns produced the album which was recorded at Greaseland Studios.

“It’s Tuesday” starts things off, a swinging and driving cut that bounces and bops in a cool manner. George leads the charge on vocals and harp while the backing vocalists call to George and provide harmonic depth to the track. The chromatic work is spectacular, the horns blare, and the guitar and backline lay down a sweet groove, setting a high benchmark for the rest of the album, and the other cuts live up to. The lyrics are also fun as George testifies to how cool Tuesday is, including being tongue in cheek about taking the trash out. Next is “Pile Driving Sam,” with more humorous lyrics as to the ladies liking their pile driving Sam. A heavy bass line, slick horn work and great vocals and grunts make this one fun. A big guitar solo and some vocal backing reminiscent of the doo wop era also make this one neat and cool. “Give Me The Dark” follows, taking the tempo down a bit as George croons to us about preferring the evening hours. A sultry, swinging cut with more cool and brassy horns, bass fiddle, fine vocals  and delectable chromatic work sell this one.

“Bustin Out” is a nice instrumental that has a cool Latin flair to it as George’s harp trades licks with the horn section.  He and band have a ball as they float and fly through this swinging cut. George blows some really great licks as do the tenor sax and trombone. Up next is “She’s A Woman,” the lone cover. George give this Beatles cut a great workover as he transforms it to West Coast rhumba of sorts.  The organ and harp interplay and the horns add their sweet sounds to the mix. “My Dog Is Better Than You” is another jazzy, swinging West Coast blues where George tells his woman off. There is some excellent tenor soloing here followed by some stinging guitar. The horns are tight, the pacing is quick, and the barrelhouse piano adds a nice touch. “Jump Abu Luka!” is up next, another sweet instrumental with some shouting fill-ins by the Sons of the Soul Revivers. Geroge’s harp floats and glides through the cut and the organ and band do a great job backing him.

“Prince of Downward Mobility” follows, a song of failure and throwing away the good life. Bisharat is a master of taking life a little less seriously and gives us another creative set of lyrics in this fine song. He blows with great emotion as the band cruises along with him effortlessly. We get a nice piano and then guitar solo here to also enjoy. “Ranty Town” is a song where he suggests his woman get a ticket to Ranty Town and just leave him be. The harp and tenor sax are executed well here once again. He gives her several options to expedite her departure with trains, planes, autos, an electric scooter and even his pogo stick. A pretty, slow, straight blues is next, “Behind the Eight Ball.” George and company give it their all as they wind their way through this with feeling. The harp is dirty, the groove is deep, and the accompaniment is exceptional all around.

“Take a Knee” has Andersen on acoustic guitar as George and the Soul Survivors take us to church on this one. The harp is poignant and the message that Black Lives Matter is equally poignant. Next is “Sunrise Stroll,” a light and airy instrumental with cool harp that flows and moves along breezily. We get some more outstanding guitar and some trumpet, tenor sax and other horns flesh out the sound well. The album concludes with “Captain Jack” and some more Gospel infused sounding vocal accompaniment. George sings with emotion, the Sons of Soul Survivors are full of solemnity and the sound and lyrics are dark and filled with despair. The harp and pacing throughout add to the darkness as do the howls from Mrs. Andersen.  Well done!

I’ve listened to all of Big Harp George’s albums and I must say they keep getting better and better and better. This one shows a lot of variety on styles and feelings as George plays some wickedly cool harp and the band does an equally admirable job in support. He’s surely got some talented players joining him here on this album. This album comes most highly recommended.

Big Harp George handles the chromatic harp as few can and delivers a powerful and exemplary set of performances for us all to enjoy. I think this album is destined to garner attention over the next sets of award seasons- kudos to Mr. Bisharat and the musicians and singers here for creating a superb album!

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