You’re Too Bad When Your Harp Is Rusty | Album Review

You’re Too Bad When Your Harp Is Rusty

Koko Mojo Records

28 songs time-67:51

A compilation of mainly obscure black harmonica players on an obscure record label. What could go wrong you may ask. Until about five cuts in, plenty. With there being no liner notes one can’t tell who these people are or what year the songs were recorded. Much of this album gives good proof why some musicians are obscure.

Pee Wee Hughes offers “I’m A Country Boy” complete with an obnoxious “bass line”. He plays simplistic rhythms on his harp, backed by primitive percussion and his rough edged voice. The lyrics here as well as on most songs are simplistic as well. Joe Williams must have employed the same “bass player” on his “Goin’ Back Po”. His harp skills are slightly more advanced as he adds a bit of melody with his mostly rhythmic playing. “Just Can’t Stay” by Willie Nix is a reconstructed “Catfish Blues”. By now the quality of the harp playing is improving by baby steps.

“I Need You Pretty Baby For My Own” by Harmonica Blues King Harris features much better harmonica playing. The way he sings it is-“I need you pretty baby for my rone”. One of three familiar names here is Juke Boy Bonner who contributes “Well Baby”, an ok song with ok singing and harmonica. Shy Guy Douglas’s “Monkey Doin’ Women” is a slice of some low down dirty blues with some nice harp blowing.

The instrumental “Making Tracks” by Sammy Johns & The Devilles is a lively enough workout. Little Walter handles the harp on John Brim’s “I Would Hate To See You Go”, lovely ditty about threatening death to his lady friend. Walter also does his own “Crazy Mixed Up World”. Great harmonica player as we all know, but not one of his songs with a lot of harmonica playing on it. Billy Rainesford’s “Magnolia” is a hopping little tune with not bad harp playing. Big Ed is one of the better singers and harmonica players on this collection. He represents double entendre blues, a long held tradition in blues with “Biscuit Baking Mama”.

“Hello Miss Simms” is one of three instrumentals included here. Garland The Great delivers good harp over a nice groove. The last one is “Live Jive” by Whispering Smith. It’s a bit reminiscent of Little Walter’s output. A skilled guitarist to go along with his well played harmonica. Old school down and dirty blues is handled by Big Jack Reynolds with his “I Had A Little Dog”. I suppose Little Shy Guy is Shy Guy Douglas under another name as the writer credit of “little Girl” is Douglas. It doesn’t stand up to his previous song.

The songs here are definitely of uneven quality. Some should have never seen the light of day. Others have been unfairly neglected by the blues world. Here’s where the skip button on your CD player comes in to play. Pick and choose and you have yourself a half decent listening experience.

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