Gary Primich
Company Man
Black Top 1136
Gary Primich can play some fine, traditional blues harp. So when he cranks loose on a cut like "Dry Country Blues," singing and playing through a reverb-drenched crystal mic, you expect what you get: some of the nastiest, Chicago-variety, hard blues to be heard so far this year, his thick instrumental tone evocative of influences Horton and Cotton. Or if Sonny Boy's more your style, Primich provides a similar workout on "My Home"; he has clearly absorbed the styles that have made the harmonica the most famous of all blues instruments.

Although he may have cut his reputation as a bluesman, the traditional cuts like those noted above are anomalous on this solid, multi-faceted release, a blend of tunes each decidedly bluesy in feel but deceptively beyond Webster's definition of the genre.

In fact, Primich is showing signs of joining a select few harp players -- Jerry Portnoy, Rick Estrin, Mark Ford and Paul deLay come to mind -- who have created a very definite musical imprint, the writing taking center stage while their instrumental talent proves the harmonica has great potential beyond copping the old masters. By example there's the rockabilly wallop of the title track, the lounge slouch of "What's It Gonna Be?," jazz-vibe of "Ain't You Trouble," Cajun feel of "Hook, Line and Sinker" or pulp-novel drama of "Cold Hand in Mine."

Visiting guests like Gene Taylor and the formidable Rob Stupka (certainly one of the best drummers to be found anywhere) spice up the mix, but it's the quality of the songs and the playing of Primich and long-time guitarist Shorty Lenoir that make everything work. For my money the Lenoir-Primich combo is the best guitar/harp pairing you can see at your local club.

Although he still lives in Austin, Texas, the halcyon days of that great blues scene have long since passed -- Kim's moved out West, Jimmie's collecting cars and the evaporated blues situation in the Texas capital is home to a host of Stevie Ray clones (I've even seen them -- no joke -- in serape and wide-brimmed hat) and little remains of the sound that truly made the Austin scene famous. Ironically, only city tourism flacks continue to hustle the city as a major blues center.

Today Austin's mature music scene is more an amalgamation of singer/songwriters, country players and jazzers, and there's quite a bit of crossover and sharing among all three. All of this has had a terrific impact on both Primich and Lenoir, hinted at on Mr. Freeze but in full blossom on Company Man, a mature work of a player establishing his identity while giving the blues and harmonica a fresh lease on life.

-- Tom Ellis III

This page and all contents are © 1997 by BLUES ACCESS,
Boulder, CO, USA.