Harp Blowers – Various Artists – Complete Recorded Works (1925-1936)
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Blues Harp Blowers
Complete Recorded Works 1925 1936
Featuring the recordings of:
John Henry Howard, vocal / harmonica / guitar. De Ford Bailey, harmonica solo. Bert Bilbro (D.H. Bilbro), harmonica solo. Bert Bilbro, vocal / harmonica, acc. two unknowns, guitars. D.H. Bilbro, harmonica solo. George Clarke (as Blue Bill on 23), vocal on 21, 22 / harmonica; acc. unknown, guitar.
Genres: Blues, Country Blues, Harmonica Blues, Blues Guitar,
Abridged from this albums original booklet notes. The harmonica has proven to be perfect for playing the blues. It is portable, loud and cheap and it is extremely expressive. From the early days, represented within, up to the present, its role as a second voice, as an echoer of emotion, is remarkable. So, here we are, back at the beginning, (of record early recordings) at least on this album. The harp is featured here in its once common capacities, as a means to mimic various sounds, such as trains, barnyard animals, the fiddle or as a simple melodic accompaniment to a guitar or small band. Of JOHN HENRY HOWARD very little is known. He was white and produced two discs, each a double choice of sanctified and secular, as the titles suggest; listen and enjoy. Of DEFORD BAILEY, however, we know more. A detailed biography is available on Matchbox MSE 218 by Paul Oliver. In short, he gained fame as a performer on the Grand Ole’ Opry, performing tunes such as those featured here, for fifteen years, from 1925. He was the great master of the solo harp showpiece, belting out accurate imitations of trains, down to the whistle, and of ever- rhythmic novelty and fiddle tunes. His playing is distinguished by beautiful tone, remarkable rhythm and perfect accuracy. Like Sonny Terry, who listened to him on the radio as a teenager, Deford Bailey could create the illusion that there was more than one harmonica playing. These songs present a textbook lesson in complex rhythm harp technique. Tongue blocking, vibrato, note bending, octave blowing, chording, whooping, breath control and timing are combined here, song after song, to stunning effect. The subtlety of his playing powered by his great energy make these recordings so enjoyable. That Deford Bailey performed, through the Opry broadcasts, to a largely white rural audience may explain why the harp was favoured by white hillbilly / blues musicians such as the previously heard John Henry Howard, and Another white performer, D. H. “BERT” BILBRO, is represented here by five sides, two of which are train songs in the style of Deford Bailey. He also plays the harp as fiddle in a few country music type numbers, and his playing is melodic and very effective. GEORGE CLARKE, or George Watson, as he was credited, recorded these sides in Chicago, but his playing has delicate, mournful quality to it typical of a rural blues harpman. His tone is low and wavering and performed in a fine down home style. His approach is similar to jug band harp players such as Noah Lewis, and his melodies remind me of Sonny Terry too.Paul Reddick Copyright 1993 Document Records.