Listen Up!

Your ears are some of the biggest assets you have as a learning musician. Feed them a healthy diet of great music and it will not only make you & your ears happy, but it will also affect how you play in a positive way. But just casual listening to good music is only one part of what you can do.

You can also be learning to listen for specific things – what I call “focused listening”. An instrument’s tone, a musician’s sense of phrasing, rhythmic variations or accents used in certain styles of music (or by certain players), etc…the list goes on & on. And don’t forget, you can also learn a lot from watching and listening to some great players perform live, in addition to hearing some great music you’ll probably never hear on record. (Yes, I just said “record”. I still love to hold an album sleeve in my hands when I listen to it…pretty hard to hold onto a download…and let’s not get STARTED on the sonic comparisons!)

I update this page on a regular basis and give you the head’s up on some classic harp & blues recordings still in print (or recently re-issued),  new recordings or contemporary re-issues worth knowing about…as well as local NY/NJ/PA area performances & jams of note.


Recommended Listening: (updated regularly)

Classic Release:

Big Walter Horton – “Can’t Keep Lovin’ You” – Blind Pig

The “other” Walter sure was one of the best players to ever play blues harp, but he didn’t record that many records as a leader throughout his career. Thankfully, one of his best efforts is still available. This was recorded during the later part of his playing career, but all the evidence is there to show he not only could still play, but he could still play better than most! Highlights include a classic version of his “Walter’s Boogie“, a jumping “Can’t Keep Lovin’ You“, dynamic versions of  “Careless Love” and “West Wind”…and the rockin’ “Gettin’ Outta Town“. If you dig blues harmonica, here is one of the best playing all shades of the blues.

Contemporary Release:

William Clarke – “Can’t You Hear Me Calling” – Watchdog

The late William Clarke isn’t known as well as he should be in current harmonica circles. He passed away at the all-too-young age of 45 (back in 1996) and left a hole in the contemporary harmonica scene that is still felt. Taking the intensity of James Cotton, swingability of Little Walter, and chromatic harp influence of George Smith, Clarke carved out his own style based on some of these masters, but with his own stamp. This re-issue brings to light some of his better early recordings that stand well on their own, as well as some tracks that are offered for the first time here on CD. Highlights include his slow blues take on Buddy Guy’s “No Lie” (first time on CD), mid-tempo swinging instrumental “The Pleaser“, great cover of John Brim’s “Ice Cream Man“, and several bonus tracks. Some serious blues harp here from the late Mr. William Clarke.

Listen Up! past recommendations here