In search of the inner Walter.
I am officially a liberated blues harmonica player. I woke up this morning and¬†admitted to myself that¬†I just don’t get Little Walter. I never have. I’ve¬†been denying the fact for years, cowering¬†in the deepest recesses of the blues closet, fearful of¬†public ridicule. But now I’m out. O U T, out.
Everyone knows mastery of Little Walter’s diatonic blues dialect is an essential step in any half-decent harmonica apprentice’s development. If you can’t recite Juke note for note, name all his hits and tongue block them, you’re¬†nobody. Well, I can play the intro to Juke from draw two¬†or blow three, with or without octaving blow six,¬†I can¬†tongue-block or purse it at will, but I’ve never stopped to learn the whole piece. The reason for¬†which is two-fold. Firstly, there was¬†a timing issue I just couldn’t unravel, whether or not it was a mistake on Walter’s part. Secondly, for love nor money, I simply couldn’t¬†copy Little Walter’s phrasing, nor did I feel the urge to do so. Oh, and there was another reason. Big Walter.
You don’t love me, pretty baby
The Good Doctor, Greasy Rob from the garage and Barry the Landlord were enjoying some time out on the patio, shelling a mountain of fresh prawns and sipping ice-cold pilsner. Amidst occasional quacks from the village duck pond and the chirrup of sparrows in the privet hedge, they could detect the approaching¬†whistle of Otis the postman, who was steadily making his rounds.
‘How do all!‘¬†Otis leaned over the Surgery gate, tugging the peak of his hat and holding out¬†a letter for the Doc.¬†‘Thanks Otis old boy, have you time for¬†some of our splendid seafood?’¬†the Doc enquired. ‘Sorry’, Otis replied, ‘I’m in a bit of a rush right now – an Otis rush you could say’. Otis was visibly¬†pleased¬†with¬†his¬†impromptu blues pun.
‘Aaah!‘ said the Doc, ‘You Don’t Love Me!‘ Otis looked a little surprised.¬†‘I wouldn’t go that far‘, he¬†replied, straightening his cap. ‘No, no, no…the letter old boy! It’s from Tom Esposito. He wants to know how to play the riff for You Don’t Love Me by The Allman Brothers’. ‘Now we’re talking!‘ whooped Otis, as he pulled a Special 20 from his pocket, ‘I¬†likes a drop of the AB’s.’
Let me introduce my new Rocket 88
There’s a right old rumpus down at the Harp Surgery! The Doc has¬†taken delivery¬†of his new Hohner Rocket and he’s been putting it through its paces. The verdict? It’s everything Hohner claims it to be – comfortable, responsive and loud. If you’re considering investing in a Rocket, we say go for it, you’ll love it! It’s great for blues, rock and pretty much every contemporary style. And just to get us in the mood, here’s some¬†Pocket Rocket from the Fab T-Birds..
For those of you looking for more information before you dive in and buy a Rocket, it’s time to grab your beverage of choice,¬†turn the phone¬†to silent, draw the blinds and enjoy a good graze through our analysis¬†below. But just before we get going..
At¬†the start of the¬†2014 when¬†we had the pleasure and good¬†fortune¬†of seeing Kim Wilson in San¬†Jose, there was rumour he would be playing new Rocket harps¬†for the show, in advance of their official release date. Contrary to¬†speculation however, he didn’t. Nevertheless, here’s a short video of¬†Kim trialling the Rocket at the 2014 NAMM exhibition. Continue reading
Otis the¬†postman¬†dropped by this morning to deliver a¬†letter from brother Neil Callaghan, who writes, ‘As a complete novice harmonica player I am trying to find out the harmonica key that Steve Weston is using whilst playing on the song I Keep It To Myself, which also has Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey performing. I hope you can help’.
Well,¬†before you ask, yes that’s¬†Roger ‘M-my g-g-g-generation’ Daltrey of The Who. And for anyone not in the know,¬†I Keep It To Myself is¬†on Wilko Johnson’s new album Going Back Home, which features Roger Daltrey (vox), Norman Watt-Roy (bass), Dylan Howe (drums), Mick Talbot (keyboard) and Steve Weston (harmonica).¬†The¬†occasion¬†has also been marked by¬†a bespoke resurrection of the iconic Chess record label.
Now, in response to the original email, I could slide into a friendly discourse about how to identify song keys and pick the right harp for yourself, but I’ll save that pleasure for a rainy day. In any case,¬†divulging the secret could quite possibly make me redundant. So instead, let’s cut to the chase and call West Weston for the answer. You can listen to our chat and find the answer to Neil’s question on SoundCloud the end of this post. In the meantime, here’s¬†some background.. Continue reading
Eireann go Brach.. Happy St Patrick’s Day!
Virtually forgotten¬†in the post-war revival of traditional Irish music,¬†Celtic and folk¬†harmonica¬†has recently enjoyed a¬†massive rise in popularity.¬†This is largely down to the work of Brendan Power and Mick Kinsella, both of whom¬†joined us at¬†the UK Harmonica Festival in Bristol¬†2010.¬†To celebrate St Patrick’s day, let’s¬†investigate the Irish harmonica style a little further and learn a great tune called Garryowen.
Brendan’s 1993 recording¬†New Irish Harmonica ultimately led to his tenure in the Riverdance show, bringing him to the forefront of the Irish harmonica style. Meanwhile, native Irishman Mick Kinsella drew on compatriot Eddie Clarke as¬†the major inspiration for his Celtic harping. Both are active on the Irish folk music scene today, as well as TV, Radio and Film.¬†Did we recently hear Brendan on the soundtrack of the Leap Year movie? Continue reading
Happy Mardi Gras!
It‚Äôs time to enjoy some traditional, good-time¬†jazz on the harmonica.¬†And since it’s Mardi Gras, it would be very remiss if we didn’t pay a visit to The Big Easy. So, no tips required, here‚Äôs a song that everybody will recognise –¬†The Saints.
The Saints¬†started life as¬†an American gospel hymn that was sung quite slowly, but once the Jazz Bands of New Orleans got hold of it though, they really made it swing! Continue reading
Pleidiol wyf i’m gwlad
If you’ve ever witnessed a rugby match involving the Welsh national team, you’ll be familiar with the stirring melody¬†that is the¬†National Anthem of Wales, Land Of My Fathers.
Happy St.David’s Day!
Irrespective of allegiances, it’s a tune to instil pride in the heart (and a lump in the throat)¬†of¬†any mortal. And in 1905 the Welsh were the first to sing their National Anthem at the start of a sporting event. New Zealand were touring the UK at the time and,¬†in response to the All Blacks’ Haka war dance, Land Of My Fathers was sung before the game commenced.¬†A lesser known fact is, it also sounds¬†fab’lous on the blues harp. Let’s take a look. Continue reading
Close encounters of the third kind
This question was asked by a student in our Harpin’ By The Sea beginners’ workshop; we had touched on positional playing as a way to extend the scope of the diatonic harmonica. And to be honest, it’s a fair question. Perhaps we accept the fact too easily, without asking or fully understanding the reason why. But we were a group of beginners. So we decided to explain the finer details¬†after the workshop for those who were interested, rather than risk putting the majority off music for life. Here’s the result.
If you are unfamiliar with the concept of modes and positions, then I recommend you first check out the post entitled Modes (or visit Modes via the Theory menu at the top of the screen) and come back when you’re comfortable with everything. It’s quick and it won’t hurt! Continue reading
JJ’s Blues Show
If you want to know where the Good Doctor and his pals go on a Tuesday night between the hours of 7pm and 9pm (UK time), we’ve usually finished our dinner and dropped round to Spiral Wave Radio to visit Jonjo Hall and his fabulous internet blues show.¬†Then it’s down¬†the Tickled Trout for a few light ales and fruit juices.
Jonjo, or JJ as we like to call him, is a superbly gifted muso and a great friend of everyone at the Harp Surgery. He spins a blistering line in blues of every possible description, often with a healthy dose of harp, and gives lovely natter with his bezzy mates and special guests. Spiral Wave itself is a cracking good venture –¬†it’s a live radio station run by folks with learning disabilities for the listening pleasure of everyone out there in the community.
Here are the Doc and JJ enjoying a bit of what does them good in the Spiral Wave studio. If you’d like to join JJ and¬†his pals on a Thursday night, you’ll find them at www.spiralwaveradio.com or you can click¬†the Spiral Wave logo.
..The Dormouse had closed its eyes by this time, and was going off into a doze; but, on being pinched by the Hatter, it woke up again with a little shriek, and went on: ‚Äú‚ÄĒthat begins with an M.. (Alice In Wonderland – Lewis Carroll)
Why is it the slightest hint of the M word triggers narcolepsy in harmonica players? We smile¬†wistfully, we nod politely, then we glaze over and let everything entering one ear pass straight out of the other. In fact the quicker, the better – we’ve enough trouble in our day already. Basically, talk of modes never, ever, makes¬†sense and¬†a¬†visit to the dentist for a double¬†root canal filling would be infinitely more pleasurable. Aren’t modes what jazzers do? We play blues, and blues comes from the heart right? Well, listen up and listen good – WRONG! Here’s how it all works.. Continue reading