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Scott Albert Johnson’s new record “Going Somewhere” literally starts with a bang–a big drum groove–that is soon capped with feverish amped harmonica whose lines pay homage to the blues tradition without ever directly invoking it. Throughout this record, on every track of which Johnson sings lead, plays harmonica, and produced or co-produced–he also wrote or co-wrote every track except for covers of Peter Gabriel’s “I Don’t Remember” and Brett Winston’s “Haunt My Dreams”–the songs are memorable, the singing intense, and the harmonica new and powerful, often in surprising ways. It’s a great record if you’re into rock n’ roll; in fact it’s the most daring rock harmonica record since the early 1990s, when Blues Traveler came along to shake everybody up with a completely different take on the instrument.
Famed harmonica virtuoso, educator and harp authority Richard Hunter will be teaching a harmonica workshop at The Sound Retreat on Sunday, September 20th from 11 AM to 3 PM. This workshop is for musicians who have already started with the instrument but need guidance to get to the next level.
The workshop will cover:
-Basic techniques: How you stand and breathe has more of an effect on your sound than you might think. We’re going to spend a little time talking about how to get the most from your body when you play the harp.
-Working with a band: When you play with a band, there’s lots more to think about than when you’re playing solo. We’re going to talk about active listening and the role(s) you play in the band.
-Chord textures: The harmonica can make an amazing variety of chords, and most players can get a lot more out of the instrument by using chording more effectively.
-Alternate tunings and their uses: Did I mention chords? You can make the heavens smile with a few non-standard tunings in your pocket.
-Recording and micing the harmonica: If you play, sooner or later you need to hear yourself coming from a pair of stereo speakers. We’ll talk about recording as a learning tool and as a means to make your work more widely heard, and the tools that work for each.
-Amplification and effects pedals: Get loud. Get into some new roles with the band. Get happy.
I intend to focus heavily on what players need to know to play more effectively with others. There’s an art to playing with other musicians, and we’re going to put a lot of time into that art. I’ll do some playing, and I intend to bring (at least some) seminar attendees up to play as well.
Space is limited to 10 participants so we can make sure everybody gets plenty of attention. The fee for this seminar is $60 if you register after Sunday Sep. 13; until that deadline is past, the fee is $50. If you’re traveling from a far distance to this seminar, we may be able to put you up for a night at the Sound Retreat; let us know if you think you need it. The fee includes a simple lunch. Participants can feel free to record the seminar as audio or video for personal use only. Participants must agree that the material in this seminar is copyrighted, and they can’t share their recordings with anyone else, whether for compensation or otherwise, in any form, via any distribution mechanism including manual ones (such as, for example only: by hand, via email, via Youtube) without prior permission. We will also record this event, and if any participant wants a copy of that recording, we’ll be glad to supply it now or in future for the personal use of that participant.
To register and reserve your seat, follow the ticket purchase link the event page. Please note: a “going” status will not hold your space–you need to register and reserve the seat.
I’ll look forward to seeing you there!
You may recall that Gartner in the Cloud, the band I played with in the Corporate Battle of the Bands semifinals last May in Washington DC, won that round and is going to Cleveland to play in the finals on September 12.
I have just learned that the show will be streamed live, so those of you who can’t make the trek to Cleveland can see the show as it happens on your Internet-ready device. The link will be live at 7pm Eastern (New York) time on September 12 on the homepage of www.rockhall.com. Get some beers and popcorn, open up some space in the living room in case you want to dance, and turn it up loud on the best speakers you’ve got. We’re playing to win.
This band plays classic rock and roll, loud and proud, and the harmonica is an important part of the band’s sound. My rig for this show consists of a Digitech iStomp running Swingshift and a Digitech RP500 running my patch set, customized for this show with tweaks to the sounds and to the layout of those sounds on the RP. There’s a lot of variety in the tones I use with this band, and some very different approaches to rock harmonica to go with it. Check it out online next Saturday.
No, this isn’t about recording my first country session, just the first one with the Digitech RP360XP.
I’ve been playing mostly acoustic music onstage and in the studio for a while now, and my harps have held up very well. But in the rehearsals for the Battle of the Bands in Cleveland, I’ve been playing loud rock and roll, and it’s showing in wear and tear on the harps.
The two harps I use most with Gartner in the Cloud are a Seydel Session Steel in D and a Seydel 1847 Classic in A. One of the blow reeds on the 1847 has dropped in pitch 2-3 cents, and the draw 4 reed on the Session Steel went a half step flat last night. Sheesh.
I’ve ordered extra reed plates for the 1847 and an 1847 Classic to replace the Session Steel. But it’s still spooky. These harps are loud and tough, equipped with stainless steel reeds. Am I really blowing that hard? Apparently. Y’know, when you’re surrounded with big guitars, you tend to play harder even when you can already hear yourself well (which, in fairness to me, I can’t always do in rehearsals with this band). I’ve just got to throttle it back and go for deep rather than loud.
I’ve been listening to Grant Dermody’s latest release, Sun Might Shine On Me, for the last couple of days. It’s a brilliantly produced work that presents the listener with lovingly rendered performances of traditional American music and original pieces in traditional styles. For harmonica players, the record offers what amounts to a catalog of essential acoustic harmonica techniques, applied with plenty of guts and smarts to great emotional effect. In short–and there will be more details in this review, but let’s say it now–this record sets the new standard for harp-focused traditional acoustic music.