Big Harp George
Classic R&B With a Razor Sharp Modern Edge.
If I saw the name Big Harp George outside a venue I’d be very disappointed if I found that he was playing a stringed instrument normally associated with the Angels! Yes; this George; the very dapper George Bisharat from San Francisco plays the chromatic harmonica and boy can he play it!
That said; on this his third album George predominantly sings and boy, can he sing too.
Alongside an ever growing band, on the opening track Down to the Rite Aid, George swings the life out of a rye observation on the tough life people and in particular musicians have these days.
This is followed by the funky Internet Honey; where our narrator’s friend who is ‘built for love and not for speed’ finds love; and lots of it on the internet.
Already you realise that Big George and band have one foot in the past with their classic R&B ‘sound’ but the other is very much in the present with the topics he writes and sings about.
George’s sweet, sweet harp playing obviously drifts in and out of many songs and when it does, it makes the mournful Nobody’s Listening and the tongue in cheek Lord Make Me Chaste (but not yet) quite extraordinary in a world where I thought ‘I had heard it all before.’
I don’t know where or when but there’s one song here that I instantly recognised; yet it appears to be brand new for this album.
Cold Snap By The Bay is a deep and insightful tale about three homeless men who died one cold night in San Jose; and the story never made the newspaper never mind the front page.
This song, dear reader is exactly what the Blues has always done better than any other musical genre; prepare to have your heartbroken in six soulful minutes.
But the Blues comes in many formats and Big Harp George’s band can play them all with vigour and class. Sizzling guitar; a trombone that sounds like a full Memphis big old brass section, industrial strength drumming and a bass player from the Gods surround George and his harmonicas in a way we thought I could only dream about until now.
Just Calm Yourself is a cool and danceable call and response duet; while the two instrumentals In The First Place and especially the title track Uptown Cool prove that a good tune doesn’t necessarily need words to get the message across.
Then there is the RMHQ Favourite track award; and I’m going for another fun and slightly tongue in cheek song this time; Alternative Facts uses a couple of the President’s ‘favourite phrases’ to describe the way a singer decides to re-write his career so he can make it famous. Yet again George uses a classic Blues tradition (think BB King) but makes his lyrics very, very contemporary for a much younger generation.
What more can I say? Watching bands like this are where I cut my teeth around Newcastle in the 1970’s but sadly technology, Punk and babies came onto the scene and the bands and fans had all moved on by 1980; but thankfully there is still a vibrant Rhythm & Blues scene in the USA with bands prepared to go out on a limb paying homage to the past but bravely writing and singing their own razor sharp material.
Released July 16th 2018