Tony Holiday – Porch Sessions Volume 2
Blue Heart Records – 2021
16 tracks: 60.45 minutes
Following on from the first volume of these ‘porch sessions’, Tony Holiday presents Volume 2, featuring a host of fine blues artists recorded in impromptu sessions across the States: Memphis and Jackson, TN, Clarksdale, MS, Bristol, VA, Anaheim and San Jose, CA and Fort Collins, CO. There are so many great musicians involved that it will be simplest to name-check them track by track, but first credit to Tony, JD Taylor, Big Jon Atkinson and Matthew Wilson who recorded the various sessions. The material involved is a mixture of artists’ originals and some familiar blues classics.
We start in Memphis with Victor Wainwright on piano and vocals, Terrance Grayson on bass, Andrew McNeill on drums and Tony on harp, delivering a great version of Jerry McCain’s classic “She’s Tough”. That tune is always associated with The Fabulous Thunderbirds and, appropriately, next up is Kim Wilson who plays some fine harp on Muddy Waters’ “Honey Bee” with Willie Buck on very Muddy-like vocals, Rusty Zinn on slashing slide guitar, Robert Welsh on piano, Troy Sandow on bass and Marty Dodson on drums, recorded in Bristol. The Colorado track is a quiet, thoughtful acoustic original by AJ Fullerton who sings and plays guitar on his “Change Is Inevitable”, accompanied by Jake Friel on harp.
We return to Memphis to catch the inimitable Bobby Rush, accompanied just by Vasti Jackson’s guitar as Bobby gives us his “Recipe For Love” (“whatever you serve for breakfast, you can serve the same thing right back for noon”). Next we drop in on Clarksdale to hear Watermelon Slim perform Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning” solo on guitar and vocals before crossing to the West Coast where the late James Harman performs his “Going To Court 2” with Kid Ramos and Landon Stone (Tony’s regular guitar player) on guitar, Harman leaving the harp work to Tony. Tony was close to James and raised a considerable amount of money to help him when he was ill; sadly James Harman passed away earlier this year, so this may well be one of his final performances and it’s a good one with excellent guitar work and swooping harp offering fine support to James’ vocals.
Jon Lawton is on guitar/vocals with Andrew Alli on harp for Jon’s own “Go”, recorded in Bristol, another acoustic tune, as is Lurrie Bell’s Memphis recording of Memphis Slim’s “Everyday I Have The Blues” with Mark Hummel providing the harp accompaniment. The final Bristol recording has Big Jon Atkinson on slide, Danny Michel on rhythm guitar, Troy Sandow on bass and Ronnie Smith on drums supporting Richard Pryor (son of Snooky) performing his own comic song “Brazilian Brothel”. The sole cut from Kid Andersen’s Greaseland studio in San Jose features Johnny Burgin on guitar and vocals performing his “Bad Bad Girl” with Tony on harp, Kid on bass and Landon Stone on rhythm guitar.
Apart from one track, the rest of the material comes from Memphis and includes several standout cuts. Another West Coast performer, Rae Gordon, is captured singing her original “Find Me When The Sun Comes Down” in attractively informal style with Ben Rice on guitar, Jake Friel on harp and Dave Melyan on drums. Ben’s soulful vocals feature on his original “That’s How I Learned”, Ben’s guitar and vocal supported by Danny Banks (from John Nemeth’s band) on drums and Dennis Gruenling on the harp.
Dennis doubles up on harp with Mark Hummel for their original all-harp instrumental tour de force “Cake Walk” – all three of these tracks from the Memphis sessions are terrific. The Memphis run is broken by JD Taylor’s “Family Tree”, with JD on vocals and harp and Alex Taylor on guitar, both being members of Little Boys Blue, “The pride of Jackson, Tennessee”. A stripped-down version of Southern Avenue gives us the anthem “Peace Will Come”, Tierinii Naftaly on vocals, Ori Naftaly on guitar and TK Jackson on percussion. It is then left to Bobby Rush to close proceedings with a short unaccompanied story guaranteed to raise a smile, “Get Outta Here (Dog Named Bo)”.
There is lots to enjoy across this album which has so many fine musicians performing mainly in stripped-down style. Finally one should point to the fact that Tony himself only performs on a few tunes, allowing the harp duties to be shared widely, very much an unselfish act that deserves recognition. It appears that Tony will be content with his work in collating these field recordings gaining recognition for all the artists and studios involved, so kudos to him.