Ever since I put together our Next Generation of Acoustic Blues issue (LB #221) I have wanted to expand on the theme. Since that issue was devoted to guitar players, I thought the next logical choice was blues harp. But blues harp is nowhere near as ubiquitous as it once was, and fewer and fewer younger players seem to be appearing on the scene. I mentioned the idea to several LB contributing writers and asked for their ideas. Several writers came back with names, many I had never heard of, who were rising harmonica talents in their area. As time went by the list grew and I decided to dive in and see what kind of issue we could pull together. This issue is the result of that effort—fifteen emerging harp players from across the United States. Some young, some not-so-young, but all of them on an upward trajectory in their careers. The players run the gamut from Mississippi’s Grady Champion, who has a major label release just out on Malaco Records, to California-based, Mumbai-born Aki Kumar, who is cutting his teeth at gigs in California and Chicago, to Patrick Williams, a rising young harp player from New Orleans, and 64-year-old Bud Carson, a recently “discovered” harp player from Vicksburg, Mississippi, who has been playing locally for decades.
After spending the past several months getting to know these “new” harp players, I am optimistic about the future of blues harmonica and excited to sit back and watch the careers of these players (and many others that didn’t make the issue) develop and grow.
A very special thanks goes out to LB contributing writer and harp player Roger Gatchet. Roger is my go-to guy for all things harp and his input and insights were invaluable in the development and execution of this issue.
Congratulations to the 2014 Living Blues Awards winners! This year’s big winners are James Cotton and Buddy Guy. Not surprising since they had the #1 and #2 albums in radio airplay as well. Old favorites like Bobby Rush, Bob Stroger, Kenny Smith, and Eddie Shaw still had strong showings while new names like Leo “Bud” Welch, Barrelhouse Chuck, Swamp Dogg, and Birdlegg were first-time winners. A big thank you goes out to everyone who voted. With nearly 6000 votes, these awards are our most successful ever. For a complete list of this year’s winners turn to page 70.
Blues rock pioneer Johnny Winter died on July 16, 2014, in Zurich, Switzerland. Like many young rockers of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Winter blended the emerging heavier sounds of rock ’n’ roll with the deep roots sounds of (mostly) electric blues and formed a powerful new fusion of high-octane, high-volume music. While many of these early blues rockers eventually drifted off into the pop market, Winter remained true to his roots and throughout his 45-year career never followed fashion. For many, his series of late 1970s recordings with Muddy Waters rate among some of the best work either ever did. Gritty, bold, and powerful, these albums thrust the still vibrant Muddy Waters back into the spotlight once again late in his career. A full obituary will follow in the next issue.
Brett J. Bonner