Mark Hummel is fond of putting together puzzle pieces of different recording sessions to produce a whole album of blues, and with Retro-Active, he's done it again. Studio dates from 2000 up to 2009 comprise this effort, with guitarist Rusty Zinn at the helm for the most part, and various rhythm sections along with a few special guests. As a harmonica player, Hummel has no equal, but here is heard more as a lead vocalist that nobody should complain about. He's got a good voice that is not exploited into the shout-out range, sings the blues authentically, and taps on sources like classic Jimmy Reed or Muddy Waters sounds to make his original music, or excellent covers of his main men. With his various bands, Hummel can get down, stomp down, or swoon about his baby with the best, but when he's jamming on the harp, he's untouchable. The twangy surf sound of "Roller Coaster" and popping calypso of "Highway Rumba" differentiate themselves from this all-out urban Chicago blues program, adding some charm or delight respectively. But it's when Hummel digs in on a slower "Honey Bee Blues" and especially the classic Waters tune "I Want to Be Loved," or channeling Reed during the steady, choogling "My Baby's so Sweet" that you hear where his true heart lies. Commander Cody drummer Lance Dickerson, Charlie Musselwhite on acoustic guitar, electric guitarist Steve Freund, and pianist Steve Wethy/Lucky all make single cameo appearances, while James Cotton and John Mayall endorse Hummel with quotes in the liner notes. It's another excellent outing for Mark Hummel, but it does make one wonder when he'll do a recording with a single band all the way through.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos