You know, the Great Northwest has a sort of embarassment of riches when it comes to blues harp players. Sheesh, Portland alone is the home of Paul deLay, Curtis Salgado, Bill Rhodes, Johnnie Ward, Mike Moothart, and LynnAnn Hyde.
We've got some good 'uns in Seattle too, including Steve Bailey, Kim Field, Mike Wylde, Brian Lee, Bubba McCoy, Jim King, Dave Prez, Paul Green, Jeff Herzog and John Deely (forgive me if I've forgotten anyone). Speaking of Dave Prez and Paul Green, I had a chance to see these blues harp maestros playing live recently - check this out:
I caught up with Dave Prez (left, with guitarist Eric Daw) and the Combo Nation at the Salmon Bay Eagles Club. Besides Eric, the other members of the Combo Nation that night included drummer (and sometime vocalist) "Sweet" Billy Spaulding, and multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter Jeff Simmons on electric bass and keyboards.
Dave is one of my favorite harp players. He is very good at applying the tongue-blocking technique, which produces his big, fat tone. I guess you could say that Dave is sort of Seattle's Little Walter specialist - you ought to hear his version of Walter's "Fast Boogie." I'm here to tell you he smokes on that tune! However, he was a little hard to hear clearly this night except right in front of the bandstand, probably because he wasn't micing the small Gibson amp that he was blowing through.
The band was playing straight ahead blues tunes, with the always excellent Eric Daw doing most of the singing while I was there. Unfortunately, I had to leave just as Mr. Simmons was preparing to do a set from behind the keyboards - I hear the band had a ball until closing time.
I saw Paul Green & Straight Shot (below) a couple of weeks later, also at the Eagles Club. The members of Straight Shot include drummer Les Merrihew, bassist Howard Hooper, and guitar/slide guitarist Mark Riley.
Left to right: Les Merrihew, Paul Green, Howard Hooper, and Mark Riley.
Paul has a harp style unlike anyone else in town. He is a very capable player, and blows very fast accurate runs over all three octaves of the diatonic harp. He is also a terrific singer, and ventures into the "Soul Blues" territory often during his show. Mark Riley also contributes vocals during the show, and can usually be seen playing his own handbuilt, custom guitars.
On the night I saw the band, Paul was sick with some sort of chest fever and was having a very difficult time singing. I got up and sang a few tunes with the band to help out. The band sounded great, as usual. I hear that some other singers showed up later to help out with the vocal chores also, so I guess that Paul made it to the end of the gig.
Man, I've gotta get out more often - Live music is best, folks!