14 September 2018 (released)
18 August 2018
Mark Harrison has been playing his unique style of Blues for years and looking back I can see that I have seen him live around a dozen times.
This is the first album that really captures what makes his live performances so special – although a studio album the little inter-track vignettes mirror his raconteur persona.
What has not changed is the sheer quality of his playing and gentle singing style and the songs here are probably the best he has written.
Live, he plays in solo, duette, trio or full band format and the names he has been associated with over the years are all well represented here: Charles Benfield’s double bass and Ben Webster’s drums underline his guitar playing and singing while at various points he is supported by Paddy Milner’s piano, Ed Hopwood’s harmonica and Gail Porter’s spoken introductions. A new name to me, Paul Tkachenko, adds tuba and other horns.
The songs on this gorgeous collection of songs have that most difficult of bases – they sound simple but when you listen closely he is telling tales that need to be told and the playing is of the sort of standard that most players take years to fail to achieve.
Harrison is clearly well versed in the history of acoustic Blues music and he brings that understanding through into 15 original songs that vary between Mississippi style Blues to New Orleans Blues, country Blues and almost ragtime but the key is that they are all original and there is no comparing them to any of the artists he name-checks in the intros. His obvious love of the great Bluesmen of history is to be seen in tracks such as ‘Don’t Die Till You’re Dead’ or ‘What Son House Said’ but equally he covers the Civil Rights movement on ‘Ain’t No Justice’ or Black legend such as his tale of John The Conqueror on ‘High John’.
Any of the songs here are capable of standing on their own but inevitably there are some that stand out from the others – problem is that every time I listen through the album the standouts seem to change.
Every track has a charm but his tales are individual and deliver something special to the listener depending on the listener.
I do have a personal favourite in the slow and beautiful ‘Falling Down’ – “The oldest damn story ever told”.
He is a unique musician, British to his roots but happy to homage the greats and I really don’t think that there is a musician that can hold a candle to him at this time.
Brilliant and well worth waiting for.