11 tracks / 53:14
Zac Harmon is a real-deal bluesman with killer guitar chops, solid songwriting skills, and the ultimate rhythm and blues voice, but despite this wealth of talent his solo recording career got started a bit later than one might think. Born in Jackson, Mississippi, he started his guitar work in the South with blues musicians that included luminaries such as Sam Myers and Dorothy Moore. But by the early 1980s he felt the allure of Los Angeles where he hoped that his music career would blossom.
Though he started out as a session player, Harmon found success in the City of Angels as a songwriter and producer with many record, film, television, and advertising credits, and one of the high points was his production work on Black Uhuru’s 1994 Grammy-nominated album. But after writing and performing a few blues songs for a film he was working on, Zac felt the calling to return to his blues roots so he put together his first solo release, Live at Babe & Ricky’s Inn. This was a turning point in his life and he went on to earn a Blues Music Award for “Best New Artist Debut” for The Blues According to Zacariah.
Right Man Right Now from Blind Pig Records is Zac Harmon’s seventh solo release, and it is certainly a nice piece of work. Zac handles the majority of the vocals and guitar playing, and he is joined by a core band of Buthel on bass, Cedric Goodman on drums, and Cory Lacy with the keys. A few guest artists made it onto this disc too, as you will hear throughout. As Harmon is an accomplished songwriter, it should be no surprise that nine of the eleven tracks on this album are originals, and there are two pretty awesome covers thrown into the mix for good measure.
The album kicks off with eight originals in a row, the first of which is “Raising Hell” which features Lucky Peterson on organ and Anson Funderbaugh on guitar. This bouncing track has a bit of Texas blues from Funderbaugh, Chicago stylings from Lucky, and silky smooth (yet hearty) rhythm and blues vocals from Harmon. This is a good times party anthem, which is always a killer way to start the set.
The next two tracks continue with traditional themes that you have come to expect from modern blues. “Ball and Chain” is about a lover that is a stone cold bummer, and is set to a slide guitar fueled swampy blues that is punctuated by the funky bass of Buthel and a bit of talk box. And “Hump in Your Back” is a slice of braggadocio about what a smooth lovin’ man the singer is, and it is a righteously funky with a rocking backbone. This song includes blues hero Bobby Rush on vocals and harp, and once you add in Les Kepics on trumpet and Chuck Phillips on sax this ends up being one of the standout tracks on the disc.
Then the party gets put on hold and the tone becomes serious with “Stand Your Ground,” with its simple yet powerful lyrics that are inspired by the significant events surrounding this controversial Florida law. The accompanying music is hard-edged blues with a somber mood provided by Peterson’s Hammond. This sequencing of songs works well, and Harmon starts the cycle over again with three more traditional songs and then another dash of reality with “Back of the Yards,” which is about the loss of so many young men due to inner city violence. This tune is surprisingly funky, thanks to Buthel’s bass and some slick organ playing from Mike Finnigan.
The two covers are placed near the end of the album, and they are not the ones that you hear every blues artist using, and Zac’s takes on Little Milton’s “Ain’t No Big Deal on You” and John Lee Hooker’s “I’m Bad Like Jesse James” are breathtakingly good. The latter is a 7 ½ minute opus that slowly bangs along and builds dramatically with its jangly guitars and warbly harmonica from Chef Deni. Harmon’s voice is perfect for the quasi-spoken word vocals and howls of this one, and it will surely get stuck in your head for a day or two after hearing it.
Right Here Right Now is a solid effort from Zac Harmon, and this modern blues collection stands on its own with a unique sound and voice. Harmon’s songwriting is relevant, his voice is like butter, and his guitar playing is clean and red-hot. Zac is one of the artists that will help carry the blues music into the future, so make sure to check out this album.