Recommended Artists & Recordings

Something About Charlie

Charlie Musselwhite’s recording of “Cristo Redentor” on his album Tennessee Woman (Verve Records) was a life-changing experience for me. It was the first recording I ever heard that made me want not only to play, but to master, the harmonica, because it revealed to me depths of emotion in the instrument that I had never dreamed existed.

Recommended Artists & Recordings

Something for Mayall

There’s a statement regarding my love for John Mayall’s early work with the Bluesbreakers (especially the band that cut "A Hard Road", with Peter Green on guitar) in the liner notes for my CD The Second Act of Free Being. This piece expands on that statement.

When I think about Mayall, it’s not his harp work that I think about most. It’s his great singing, his moody, shifting organ playing, the great sound his bands had, and the very personal chord changes he put into his songs. Mayall’s blues are unique, often darkly beautiful and moving. I hear the choruses and guitar licks from "Top of the Hill" and "Roxanne" (Mayall’s version, not Sting’s: “Roxanne will always be my friend, and that’s the way I keep her love”) in my head all the time. "The Supernatural" is one of the greatest ballads I ever heard, and I have tried to emulate Peter Green’s guitar sound and feel on the harmonica on any number of occasions. My own piece “The Longing” from The Act of Being Free in One Act was inspired by “The Supernatural,” long after I first heard it in my mid-teens.

Recommended Artists & Recordings

A Harmonica Review of William Galison/Mulo Franzi Group's Midnight Sun

I acquired a copy of William Galison’s import CD “Midnight Sun” (William Galison-Mulo Franzi Group, EC508-2)at SPAH 98, and have listened to it a
couple of times since. It’s a very enjoyable jazz record, plenty of great harmonica playing (with and without Franzi’s saxophone counterpoint)and an excellent band (especially Franzi). The recorded sound is warm, clear, and strong, and the tunes, both originals and covers, are memorable. (I especially liked “Never Never Land,” the theme from “Peter Pan,” which is given a latin treatment.) William uses a chromatic harmonica with several valves removed to allow for deeper bending on a few big notes, and the effect is startling and dramatic. His tone is beautiful, and his precision on improvised lines is impressive. The CD includes a take on Clifford Brown’s “Joy Spring” that is too sunny and unhurried to sound like real bebop, but it’s a pleasing approach, and the melody sounds great.

This is not cutting-edge music, i.e. it is not harsh, abrasive, unconventionally structured, self-consciously virtuosic or self-consciously crude (or both), or arrogant in its demands on the listener. (It is asking a lot for any audience to sit through extended sessions of scrabbling noise that determinedly goes nowhere apparent. I listen to such stuff out of curiosity, and sometimes I enjoy it, but it’s asking a lot.) This band’s music is melodic, beautifully arranged and played, and swinging, and it returns pleasure for the time invested in it. It’s a jazz record for a sunny day, or for when you need one.

I’ll note briefly here that I have heard a lot of very fine, original, and well-produced harmonica records in the last year, including Clint Hoover’s, Sandy Weltman’s, Mike Turk’s, etc.; almost all of them were self-produced and distributed. It’s clear that the continued drop in costs for recording and manufacturing is benefiting the harmonica community by allowing strong artists to get their work out without backing from a major (or even minor) label. This is a good time to be a fan of harmonica music: better instruments, better players, lots of original work happening.

Recommended Artists & Recordings

A Harmonica Player’s Review of James Taylor’s Hourglass

This is a harmonica player’s review, which means the ultimate focus is on the two songs on James Taylor’s latest release that contain harmonica playing (by Stevie Wonder and James Taylor respectively). The overall quality of this release is so high that I can’t help but talk about other aspects of the recording first.

Recommended Artists & Recordings

Blues Traveler’s “Straight On Till Morning”: Focus on Harmonica

John Popper, as any harmonica player (and many non-harmonica players) knows, is the lead singer, main songwriter, and harmonica player for Blues Traveler, an increasingly popular rock band whose inspirations include the Grateful Dead, and whose recent credits include opening for the Rolling Stones on that band’s latest US tour. This review of Blues Traveler’s latest release on A&M Records, “Straight on Till Morning,” focuses on Popper’s harmonica work on that recording. (In other words, if you’re interested in a discussion of the CD’s lyrics, you should look elsewhere.)

Gallery Hunter's Music

The Photo gallery

Pictures from the sessions for “The Lucky One” at 1935 Studio, Philadelphia, PA on Sep 18 2016. (Photos by Patty Sagalyn)

Richard Hunter, harmonica and vocals
Mike “SloMo” Brenner, lap steel
John Cunningham, bass
Mark Schreiber, drums
Peter Rydberg, engineer

AND here’s the record that began with those sessions! Check it out.

the rock harmonica masterpiece

Get it on Amazon

Get it on iTunes

You can also check out Mark Schreiber’s photos from the “Lucky One” sessions.

Richard Hunter harmonica workshop at the Sound Retreat, Chester, CT, Sep 20 2015. (Photos by Tracey Kroll)

Brian Maw Band live at The Bridge, Pocatello, ID, 17 Nov 2012. L to R: Eli Preston, Brian Maw, Bernie McBurns, Richard Hunter

Hunter/Maw/Preston live at South Fork Lodge, Swan Valley, ID, 11 August 2012. L to R: Brian Maw, Eli Preston, Richard Hunter

Sitting in with Charlie Musselwhite at Infinity hall, Norfolk, CT, 29 April 2012

L to R: Centro Culturale de la Reina, Santiago, Chile; Agassiz Theatre, Cambridge, MA; London, UK; in the studio, Tetonia, ID

Richard Hunter with Lowlands, The Windmill, Brixton UK, 19 June 2010 (Photos by Chiara Meatelli)

Here are all the images we considered for our new banner in October 2010. Look at the top of the page to see which one won.

Recommended Artists & Recordings

Jerome Harris

Jerome Harris was one year ahead of me at Harvard, and by the time I met him he was already one of the best-known student musicians on the campus. His main axe in those days was guitar, and his trademark was versatility. He was a terrific soloist, a wonderful accompanist, and he could play a very wide range of jazz, rock, blues, and funk styles brilliantly. When I first met Jerome, he was planning a career as a psychiatrist; by the time he graduated, he’d made the decision to make music his career. To me it was a no-brainer.

Recommended Artists & Recordings

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal hasn’t played harmonica much in public in the last few years, at least not so far as I can tell. When I was in my teens, Taj featured his harmonica extensively on his recordings, and I learned a lot from those records.

My favorite harmonica work by Taj is found on his double record set, Giant Steps/The Old Folks at Home. In particular, the harp on “Give Your Woman What She Wants” and “You Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond” is great stuff: a terrific amplified sound, a bit lighter and brighter than many amplified players, with a certain roughness to the breathing and tone that is very appealing; lots of sharp rhythmic turns, very simple and sophisticated all at once; and a very effective way of using low-register octaves to fatten the sound of the instrument.

My second CD includes a cover of “You Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond,” and that piece will carry a dedication to Taj. Careful listeners will hear one or two direct quotes from Taj’s recording on my version. I just couldn’t keep them out; like so much of what Taj does, those licks were simply, absolutely right.