Various Artists

In the Pocket: A Taste of Blues Harmonica

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It's nearly impossible to think of any traditional blues band without one of their members blowing on a harmonica. This collection of great mouth organ players begins with Ronnie Earl performing "Mighty Fine Boogie," a song living up to its name. James Cotton's harmonica begins to take a more prominent role as the song progresses, but it's only near the end that he begins to shine. Cotton also duels with Billy Branch during a rendition of Tommy Dorsey's "T.D.'s Boogie Woogie." "Knocking at Your Door" has a slower tempo to it, allowing for Matthew Skoller to showcase his talents. It works particularly well against John Primer's guitar solo. One of the stronger performances is Annie Raines during "Rock Me Baby," a track where she does a lot by simply doing less harmonica work. It resembles an early Rolling Stones cover of "Little Red Rooster" in some parts. One of the timeless qualities of any blues harmonica is the emotion it tends to emit despite its lack of size or amplification. "I'm a Steady Rollin' Man" demonstrates this perfectly as Carey Bell does a fine performance over Robert Lockwood Jr.'s vocals. Equally interesting is Kenny Neal performing "Bring It on Home," using his harmonica to accentuate the song while his guitar maintains a steady rhythm. Junior Wells has a style all of his own during the jazz and swing feeling during "The Goat." Taken from his Come on in This House album, it possesses one of the catchier and more infectious beats on the album. The last third of the album features more extended blues numbers, including Raful Neal's rendition of "Starlight Diamond." It's a song that has a deliberate and leisurely pace to it, but tends to drag near its ending. The earthy and gut-wrenching feeling coming from Snooky Pryor's voice and mouth organ during "Pony Blues" is hair-raising at some points, which is another shining moment. Ending the compilation is an "all star" assortment contributing to "Harp to Harp." Featuring James Cotton, Sugar Ray Norcia, Billy Branch, and Charlie Musselwhite, it is a proper finish despite having a rather lengthy and bland beginning to it.

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