Corey Harris
Fish Ain't Bitin'
Alligator 4850
Corey Harris brings together a tremendous depth of knowledge, brilliant readings of blues standards, seamlessly fitting new compositions, lovely guitar work, amazing vocals, and not a bit of it seems stagey or faked. Considering that Harris came to blues from an academic background, and is about as scholarly as they come, that is plain astonishing.

Some contemporary blues singers, particularly in acoustic blues, seem to present something second-hand, authentic but not real. But Harris sounds as if he's channeling some down-home back-porch Delta bluesman from way back when. He plays solo on a steel resonator guitar, mostly using slide, except for four cuts where he's joined by a small brass ensemble of two trombones (Keith "Wolf" Anderson and Charles Johnson), tuba (Anthony "Tuba Fats" Lacey) and percussion (Harry "Point Man" M. Dennis, Jr.). They add accents and lend a nice old-timey sound to the title song, "High Fever Blues," the jolly instrumental "Clean Rag" and "5-0 Blues," which flawlessly works a contemporary subject into a traditional milieu.

Bassist Chris Severn joins Harris for a few duets, including the beautiful "Mama Got Worried" and the slow, deep "Moosemilk Blues," both Harris originals. I was also impressed by the clean, fast picking on a few cuts where Harris didn't use slide, particularly Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Take Me Back," sung and played with a sweetness that brings to mind Mississippi John Hurt.

Despite the variety of music among the 17 songs, Harris is a steady and consistent presence. I suspect we've just seen the very beginnings of what this immensely talented musician has to offer

-- Jennifer Zogott

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Boulder, CO, USA.