While they don’t often get much credit, The Fabulous Thunderbirds—standing on the shoulders of Paul Butterfield and Charlie Musselwhite—helped popularize the template of blue-eyed rockin’ blues bands built around a strong guitar player (Jimmy Vaughan) and a notable singer/harmonica player (Kim Wilson). Before his death on September 23, 2007 at the age of 49, Chicago-born but Austin-based singer/guitarist/harpist Gary Primich followed in the T-Birds’ wake, but he left his own legacy behind that continues to inspire other players in the genre.
For example, last year, a wonderful retrospective, Just a Little Bit More . . . with Omar Dykes, was a two-disc set drawing from four of Primich’s solo albums, tracks he played on with Dykes, and unreleased material guitarist Dykes found in his archives. The collection remains indispensable listening both for the performances and the variety of musical styles Primach had mastered.
Now, while not precisely a tribute album, Hank Mowery’s Account to Me is as deep a bow as one musician can make to another. To begin, the disc was produced in collaboration with the Primich family. In fact, the project began after a 2012 tribute concert when Gary’s sister, Darsha asked Mowery if he’d record two songs left behind only as lyrics. Account to Me developed as Mowery wanted to flesh the project out into a full album.
Five tracks are Primich compositions including “Put the Hammer Down,” “My Home” and “Pray for a Cloudy Day,” along with the two never-before-recorded songs, “Tricky Game” and the title track. In addition to other Primich sidemen, Gary’s former bassist Patrick Recob not only plays on the album, he composed one of the tracks. Beyond what’s on the disc, singer/harmonica player Tad Robinson, a longtime Primich friend, wrote the liner notes about the songs and Primich’s importance to the blues. In addition, according to Mowery, “I contacted Kate Moss to design the CD because she and her husband Nick had become somewhat close with Gary and actually had recorded with him not long before he passed away.”
Along with the Primich covers, there are two Mowery originals including the raucous album opener, “Spend a Little Time,” and “If I Knew What I Know,” a reflective song written in the aftermath of Primich’s death but not completed until 2012. In the spirit of Primich, other cover songs include Memphis Slim’s “Banana Oil” and Rev. Robert Wilkins’ “That’s No Way to Get Along.” To create the perfect setting for this material, Mowery worked to create a sound that Primach would have liked, and sought out an all-analog studio in Grand Rapids. The warmth and old-fashioned feel of the sessions is obvious from start to finish, as all the musicians were chosen for their personal connections to Primich or had respect for his work.
As a result, Account to Me isn’t a chock-full-of-chops display of blues virtuosity, but rather a rockin’ collection of blues tunes that sounded both like they were fun to record and treated with a level of seriousness due to the point of it all. Account to Me, then, is a worthy homage to its inspiration and a much better-than-average sampling of white boy blues with an emphasis on the harmonica. If the T-Birds and their descendants are your cup of tea, don’t miss this one. Put it on your shelf alongside Just a Little Bit More. Together, they make for a heck of a blues primer.