12 tracks/45 minutes
Gene Pittman, AKA Birdlegg, is a Pennsylvania native that now resides in Austin, Texas. This 66 year old harp player plays an in a more blues early harp style (i.e. pre-Little Walter); he learned to love the blues from his grand father who played National Steel Guitar and toured nationally. He picked up a harp in his twenties and began to memorize every Sonny Terry lick he could listen to. He moved west, was a fixture in Oakland and the Bay Area blues scenes and released his first album there in 1990.
He gave up on that after 35 years and moved to Austin. He’s a cool cat and can sing and play with anyone. The band on this is a very talented Austin group, including Omar Dykes and Mike Keller on guitar, Kaz Kaznoff on sax, Nick Connolly on keys, Johnny Bradley on upright bass and Jason Moeller on drums. Recorded live in the studio, Pittman gives us 8 originals and 4 thoughtful covers on this well done album.
The covers are “Fanny Mae”, “I’ll Play the Blues For You,” “747” and “You Set Up My Mind.” Pittman’s harp opens “Fanny Mae” in an unadorned and stark fashion. It’s a good cover and nice hook for the CD. Keller does the guitar work on “I’ll Play the Blues” and supports Pittman well; the vocals are soulful and convincing.
“747” swings na jives with Birdlegg and Keller really doing a fine job. The final cover is a beautiful Jimmy Reed song. The simplicity of the harp sound is very cool; no over-amplification here, just raw emotion.
The originals hearken back to the old days. “San Pablo” has a Bo Diddley beat and is a fun cut with a great lyrical set of lines and nice harp and sax work. “Draw In Your Lip” offers up more classic sounds and a nice organ line. A soulful harp intro on “Restraining Order Blues ” sets the tone for some beautiful slow blues.
“BLB” is a slick little instrumental. He closes with a down home tune “Down In My Shoes,” which is very authentic Delta blues. He blows some more mean harp. The other cuts are equally good and a lot of fun.
Keller is great on guitar throughout as is Dykes on his five cuts. Kazanoff is stellar on sax, too. But Birdlegg is the star here. He’s not showy or trying to overly impress the listener but he delivers a very soul-filled performance on harp and vocals.
I enjoyed this a lot and I think anyone with an appreciation for traditional blues will too.