Several years ago I read an article interviewing Robert Cray. In it he was asked about which up and coming blues artists he was listening to and he mentioned Eric Bibb and Corey Harris. Being a fan of Mr. Cray, I naturally had to check out these aspiring artists to see what the fuss was about. After giving both of these dudes a good listen I am happy to report that Robert's great tastes extend beyond his guitar licks. I'll profile Bibb later but for now Corey Harris gets a song spotlighted today.
Corey is a genuine student of the early blues; Paul Pearson from AMG puts it best when he states that Harris "never comes off as a dilettante, but rather a devoted auteur." His 1995 debut album Between Midnight and Day is a showcase for his mastery of the music of country blues icons like Charley Patton, Bukka White and Sleepy John Estes. But from there, Harris has showed off a startlingly diverse grasp of all kinds of roots music, from folk to Caribbean to creole. The heir to Taj Mahal? Why yes, you could say so. And true to the old form, Corey's weapons of choice are the National Steel Guitar and the lap steel guitar. Furthermore, his voice is so malleable, he can change it in pitch and phrasing to perfectly match the tune. You'd swear there's a different vocalist for each song.
It's this diversity that makes Harris' third release, 1999's Greens From The Garden such a joy to listen to. In keeping with the culinary theme, it's really a spicy, traditional gumbo cooked in a contemporary pot. You know it wasn't recorded that long ago, but it harkens back decades nonetheless.
"Basehead", which is found near the beginning of this release (as well as in the excellent sampler Alligator Records 30th Anniversary), is rooted in Delta blues played but the electric bass anchors it in the modern era. However, Harris goes the extra mile or two to get that old timey feel, making it feel like as if it was played on a front porch instead of the inside of a honky tonk. Harris half-slurs through his lines while his lap steel lazily follows his vocals. The song leisurely shifts back and forth between mid-tempo and a gallop. With all this laid back vibe going for it, you'd hardly notice that Harris is actually preaching against the dangers of crack (for example, the "slavery ways" of today is cocaine addiction).
Combining all those disparate elements make "Basehead" seem like something very rootsy but fresh sounding at the same time. That's why Corey Harris is a standout among the newer generation of blues artists today. Robert Cray knows what the hell he's talking about.
"One Track Mind" is a weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too. Downloads are low quality rips available for only about a week.