Various Artists

Harp Blowers (1925-1936)

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This is a rather fascinating CD that features music from some of the earliest harmonica players on record. The forgotten John Henry Howard sounds fine on his only recordings (four songs from 1925 in which he sings and plays both harmonica and guitar), and also here are the only three cuts by George Clarke, a harmonica player from 1936. However, the real reason to acquire this disc is for the performances of DeFord Bailey and D.H. Bert Bilbro. Bailey was a star on the Grand Ole Opry during 1925-1940, a virtuoso solo harmonica player who could imitate trains, barnyard animals, and all types of sounds. He recorded just 11 selections in his career despite his fame, all dating from 1927-1928; among the more impressive cuts are "Old Hen Cackle," "The Alcoholic Blues," and "Fox Chase." Bilbro is more obscure, but remains on Bailey's level, as he shows during the remarkable "C. & N.W. Blues" in which he does a close re-creation of a train. An essential acquisition for vintage blues collectors.

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