various artists,
Superharps II
(Telarc, 2001)

Superharps II is an excellent blues album that features some superb harmonica playing. The thirteen songs make up an hour of blues, with several of the songs over six minutes in length. That's particularly nice on an album like this, as it gives the soloists -- Carey Bell, Lazy Lester, Raful Neal and Snooky Pryor -- time to explore and strut their stuff. Which is not to say that it's simply a series of blues harp solos! The other musicians are also skilled, and the solos shine in settings of good, solid blues, with Anthony Geraci's piano a lively counterpoint to the harmonica's wails.

My favorite song on the album is the original "Starlight Diamond," a sweet love song with plenty of excellent playing. The final track, "Harp to Harp," is also a standout, featuring intricate solos from all four of the blues harp players on this album. But it's hard to choose favorites when all the songs are so good! The pacing is also well done, moving from the lively to the slower and back.

The liner notes are very nice, telling us quite a lot about each of the harmonica players on the album. I'm not as fond of the album's title; for me it evoked images of the sort of compilation albums sold on late-night TV, and that's not fair to the wonderful music here. All the players deserve to be called "super," it's true, but the songs aren't snipped from other albums and stuck on a CD here -- they were recorded specifically for this album.

Despite the title, I urge blues fans -- and harmonica fans in particular -- to check out this album. You won't be disappointed!

[ by Amanda Fisher ]
Rambles: 28 July 2001

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