Harp master, singer and band leader Mark Hummel presents historic recordings, on his latest release, that capture the spirit of, and are a welcome addition to, the annals of 70’s and 80’s East Bay Blues. Rest assured that this isn’t a nostalgic trip down memory lane but rather a documentation of 22 rare and valued recordings by a number of Hummel’s heroes, influencers, and former band mates.

For the benefit of the uninitiated, the multi Grammy and Blues Music Award nominated Hummel has released 21 CD’s with 11 of those appearing on the Electro-Fi Records imprint. In addition to his own fine live and recorded works, Hummel has shown himself to be somewhat of a Blues crusader over the years. Notable in his efforts, as an ambassador of the Blues, has been the staging of the annual Mark Hummel Harmonica Blowout, shining a light on a who’s who of harmonica players over the last 30 years.

It’s in that spirit that East Bay resident Hummel has decided to release the tracks herein that focus primarily on local Bay area Blues artists. Hummel, either on his own or with his band The Blues Survivors, is on half of the tracks featuring artists including Sonny Rhodes, Mississippi Johnny Waters, and Ron Thompson among others. And the tracks, thanks in no small part to Kid Anderson’s mastering skills, sound as fresh as the day that they were laid down.

Brownie McGhee kicks off the set in rousing fashion with a 1983 studio recording of one of the staples of his repertoire “Walk On”. McGhee directs the band on a cut that features a great Hummel harp solo riding the crest of the melody. The selection is also notable in that it includes former James Cotton and Muddy Waters sideman Francis Clay on drums.

Sonny Rhodes, (vocals, pedal steel, guitar), acquits himself well on all three of his contributions including a rendition of Muddy’s “Take The Bitter With The Sweet” and his own compositions “It Won’t Rain In California” and “Look Out For Sonny Rhodes”. Mississippi Johnny Waters, (vocals, guitar), backed by The Blues Survivors, checks in with four outstanding entries, with the stirring shuffle, “You Can Look For Me” among them. The other star of the set is Ron Thompson who leads his trio on a couple of cuts. Dig the snapping “I’m Shaking” and Thompson’s outstanding slide work on the Elmore James inspired “Freight Train”.

It’s been proven time and again that, (as Dr. John has been quoted as saying), “sometimes the guy in the juke joint is better than the guy on the radio”. Keeping with that mindset Bluesmen like Boogie Jake, Cool Papa, BBQ Barnes, and Bob Kelton et al may not be household names; but once you put that aside you’re in store for some exceptional Blues.

Kudos to Mark Hummel for bringing these recordings to light!  (Rico Ferrara)