Chris Harper & the Sharade Band,
Blues is My Life
(independent, 2009)

Once more, in the music of Chris Harper & the Sharade Band, the international nature of the great American music form -- the blues -- becomes clear.

When he was just a boy, Harper -- a native of Switzerland -- fell in love with the harmonica playing of Sonny Boy Williamson and was compelled to try to master the instrument. As he came to realize that most of the musicians he idolized were from Chicago, he began to feel that he had to go to that city to study under the remaining masters. In Chicago, he met the people he idolized and became a student of Sugar Blue. When he returned to Europe, he met an Italian blues ensemble, the Sharade Band, and teamed up with them. Blues is My Life is their first CD.

The band came back to Chicago to make the album and used the Chicago horns to fill out the brass section -- the Sharade Band had only one horn player -- and brought in Billy Branch and Chico Banks to help out on a few songs.

The result is a wide-open blowing session with Harper's harmonica well out in front. His is the dominant voice and the dominant instrument. Instead of a together blues band, we've got a major soloist and his backing group, who toss around the occasional solos among themselves. The result is good but at this point, Harper is still to closely connected to his influences. He and the band need to find their own voices. Blues is My Life is a promising record but the promise has been fulfilled yet.

review by
Michael Scott Cain

22 August 2009

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