various artists,
In the Pocket:
A Taste of Blues Harmonica

(Telarc, 2002)

In the Pocket: A Taste of Blues Harmonica is over 71 minutes of delightfully deep and earthy blues. It gives us a taste of the styles of various artists sampling the excellent James Cotton on a total of five tracks, though the subtle variations and depths of this skilled veteran of blues will invariably leave the listener wanting more! Charlie Musselwhite and Billy Branch each appear twice: the final track, "Harp to Harp," features over 11 minutes of all three artists, along with Sugar Ray Norcia.

A well-balanced mix of vocal and instrumental blues tracks, although the harmonica is undeniably present on each, it does not ever become commonplace or boring. Inside the cover there is an in-depth listing of the tracks, alongside photos of the albums from which they are taken, detailing the harmonica artists and guitarists and vocalists. The grand finale is original to this CD and its rich intensity should satisfy the most demanding blues gourmand!

The fourth track, "Rock Me Baby," has Hubert Sumlin on vocals, accompanied, among others, by the album's only female harmonica player, Annie Raines. The vocals of Musselwhite, who also plays on "In Your Darkest Hour," are deliciously smooth and moody. Short but shifting, "Moody's Shuffle" powers along like a train on tracks, bass notes complemented perfectly by the wail and whistle of Jerry Portnoy's harmonica.

In the Pocket not only gives the listener a taste of harmonica across the blues spectrum, but also a taste of the different tempos that can be served up on the menu of blues. From mournful pathos, blues can slide into sensuous velvety depths enhanced by vocals and bass, then step and shuffle into toe-tapping tunes that apparently belie the term "blues." This CD encompasses a wealth of experience and skill, style and laid-back cool. For anyone with a scintilla of interest in blues it is essential. For anyone who has no idea what "blues" should sound like, it is essential. I could enthuse over each one of the 14 tracks, forming this collection of utterly sensational sounds, but the best advice I can give is: Go on, try it!

- Rambles
written by Jenny Ivor
published 30 November 2002

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