A crazy little feeling called.. blues shock
Regular visitors to Harp Surgery will know we’re huge fans of¬†Billy Branch.¬†This weekend we look forward to catching him live at the annual Blues Festival in Chicago’s Grant Park. A stunning performer and renowned blues recording artist for over forty years, Billy has a knack for reigniting the¬†blues, then blasting it clean into the new year. Given the chance, you’d be crazy¬†to miss¬†him on the big¬†stage, but of course you¬†can also¬†enjoy¬†his¬†rich back catalogue of recorded material from the¬†comfort of your own back porch.
For the unacquainted, the best point of embarkation¬†is probably the¬†Harp Attack album recorded in 1990 with Junior Wells, James Cotton and Carey Bell. It’s an explicit¬†illustration of Billy’s roots.¬†From here, check out Billy’s personal favourite,¬†Mississippi Flashback from 1992, when he emerged with his own¬†band, Sons of Blues. Then our own favourites from¬†1995 The Blues Keep Following Me Around and 1999 Satisfy Me. You’ll be hard pressed to find a collection¬†more evocative of contemporary electric Chicago blues. Continue reading
You can tune a harmonica
‘Take a loooook up the rail track, from Miami to Canada.‘ With a song on his lips and a bounce¬†in his step, Otis strode¬†into the Surgery to deliver a letter from America. The Doc was plinking and filing away at a Crossover reed plate on his¬†Sjoeberg 7.5 rig. He peered over his¬†glasses and smiled.¬†‘Your¬†vocal chords would¬†benefit from a go on here,¬†Otis old¬†boy!’¬†Otis stopped dead. ‘Whaddya mean?‘ ‘Well, if you were a dressmaker,’ the Doc replied, ‘you’d be tucking up all the frills, instead of which, you’re just..’¬†‘I have the voice of an angel‘ Otis interrupted. Continue reading
The Good Doctor is joining forces with Giles Hedley and Will Wilde this summer, to deliver a sizzling programme of blues harp workshops in High Wycombe. This is a great chance to develop and hone your skills, meet other players and enjoy a great evening of music with¬†The Will Wilde Band and The Elevators. Book early!
Venue: Arts4every1 Centre, Desborough Rd, High Wycombe, HP11 2PU
Workshop Tickets: ¬£27.50
Show Tickets: ¬£13.75
Workshops by Giles Hedley (Advanced)
Giles will help you explore the ‚Äúother side‚ÄĚ to blues harp playing; how to nourish groove, feel and emotion in your blues playing. He’ll explore why the harp is there in blues, how we relate to the singer and to other instruments, how we bounce off the beat, loving every note, setting up a groove, deepening it, economy and the power of silence. Technique is just the start; what really counts is how you use it!
Workshops by Will Wilde (Intermediate)
Will is concentrating on 1st, 2nd and 3rd position blues. His definitive guidance to blues scales and riffs will help you use all three positions effectively. Ionian, Mixolydian and Dorian modes on the blues harmonica? You never knew there was so much in it!
Workshops by Richard Taylor (Beginners)
If you’ve always wondered where to start, Richard will lead¬†you on¬†a¬†journey of enlightenment, from opening the box,¬†to¬†the doorstep¬†of note bending. You’ll start with¬†chugging and vamping, learn the principles of straight harp and cross harp, move¬†into single note playing and hand techniques, and develop useful repertoire before attempting your inaugural draw and blow bends (without the use of soft mats, wires or a safety net).
Put your hands on your head, Simple Simon says
It was the end of another busy week in the village. There’d been so much rain, the¬†duck pond had swamped the High Street and a family of widgeon was¬†floating past the Surgery’s kitchen window. Our Monica had finished mopping up the puddle by the kitchen door and it looked like there would be no way home for a while, short of borrowing the Good Doctor’s waders.
‘Time for a nice hot cup of Yorkshire Tea!’¬†the Good Doctor said cheerily, placing a couple of logs in the AGA and setting the kettle on the hob. ‘Now here’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you for a while,’¬†he continued,¬†‘head or hands?’. ¬†Our Monica looked worried. ‘Do you mean heads or tails?‘ she replied cautiously. ‘No, no, when one plays a trill on one’s gob iron, should one move one’s head or one’s hands?’, the Doctor asked in earnest. ‘Doctor, I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,’¬†giggled Monica. ‘Hmmm, I’ve been weighing it all up..’, the Doctor replied, ‘here’s what I think..’ 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
Ain’t that a pity, I declare it’s a cryin’ shame
It was Guy Fawkes’ night down at the Surgery. Beside the wood burner, Greasy Rob and Shagpile Jim were playing light sabres¬†with their¬†indoor sparklers. From the galley, the Doc was dispensing gl√∂gg and spiced ale. As Otis queued up¬†Homework¬†on the Sonos system, from the foggiest fathoms of his sub-conscience, he quietly muttered, ‘Poor old pigeons.’¬†The Doc set down his mulling poker and turned from the ARGA. ‘Since when did¬†pigeons and¬†The J. Geils Band have anything in common?’ he asked. Otis resurfaced. ‘I was thinking of the fireworks; it’s coming down in¬†stair-rods outside. The Rear Admiral said there’ll¬†be a few damp squibs this year.’
Well you know it’s nine below zero
‘That’d be wet¬†squab mate.’¬†Greasy Rob was chairman¬†of the surgery’s pub quiz team and an authority on trivia.¬†‘Young pigeons are squab.¬†A squib’s a¬†small¬†stick of dynamite; an out-sized banger to you and me. And we’re not talking Cumberland. And don’t you get me started on squid either, sick or otherwise. They’ve set up a marquee by the pond – they’ll be fine.’¬†Otis was back in the building. ‘Alright! Alright!’¬†he growled, ‘no need for the third degree.’
At that moment JJ, the local internet radio presenter,¬†poked his be-spectacled bonce¬†round the parlour door. ‘
You should be on Egg-Heads Rob you saucy git. Here, any of you lively¬†lot heard who’s playing The Old Market Theatre tonight?’¬†
He flourished a wad of tickets. ‘Only Nine Below flamin’ Zero! It’s gonna be a proper R&B shindig.’¬†
Otis sat freeze-
framed, still pointing his finger at the guitarist on his album cover. ‘Sup up gentleman, we have some unfinished business!
‘ The Doc pulled out his press pass and slipped it into his hatband.
Johnny Ace Harp Microphones
It’s been a while since we posted anything technical from the Harp Surgery, so pull on your overalls and let’s hit the grease pit. We’ve been busy refreshing our harp rig and look forward to reporting on all the fantastic¬†hardware we’ve assembled. Customised harp mics, harp effects pedals and tuning equipment; they’re all here. So let’s start with some real harp mic cheesecake.
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