New Blues Review 3-19-24

James Harman – Didn’t We Have Some Fun Sometime (Electro-Fi)  “Ever since releasing his debut, Thank You Baby, on Enigma in 1983, James Harman kept the sound of classic electric blues alive. Harman grounded his sound in Chess — there were distinct echoes of Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson — and his bands often incubated new talents, including future Blaster Phil Alvin plus guitarists Hollywood Fats, Gene Taylor, and Kid Ramos. As such, Harman didn’t break into the mainstream — he did land a song in a pivotal scene in the Academy Award-winning 1988 film The Accused — but he racked up W.C. Handy Awards as he kept touring and recording into the 2020s. Born in Anniston, Alabama on June 8, 1946, Harman began playing piano at the age of four. He soon discovered his father’s harmonicas in the family’s piano bench, so he taught himself how to play the harp, then picked up the guitar and drums. Soon, he discovered the blues and began playing with local blues guitarist Radio Johnson. At the age of 16, he moved to Panama City, Florida, and started playing in local blues and R&B bands, winding up in the Icehouse Blues Band. He signed a management deal with Earl Caldwell, who also managed the Swingin’ Medallions, who helped shop singles to various local Florida imprints. None of these went anywhere, so he spent some time in New York, Miami, New Orleans, and Chicago before landing in Southern California in the 1970s. After battling health problems, he continued to lead a lineup of the Icehouse Blues Band, which eventually evolved into the James Harman Band in 1977. The James Harman Band featured a number of prominent players, particularly in its earliest years when it featured Phil Alvin and Bill Bateman, who left the group to form the Blasters. Harman built up enough of a following to sign with Enigma in 1983, releasing Thank You Baby as his debut. Rhino issued Those Dangerous Gentlemen in 1987, which was followed by Extra Napkins in 1988. After Rivera released Strictly Live… In 85! in 1990, he moved to Black Top and stayed there through the ’90s, releasing four albums for the label. Cannonball put out two records at the end of the ’90s — Takin’ Chances in 1998 and Mo’ Na’Kins, Please! in 1999 — and he moved to Gulf Coast for Lonesome Moon Trance in 2003. Harman was quiet on the recording front during the remainder of the 2000s — although he did cameo on two ZZ Top albums, contributing to 2003’s Mescalero and 2012’s La Futura — returning in 2015 with Bonetime on the Electro-Fi imprint. Three years later, he delivered Fineprint. Harman died of a heart attack on May 23, 2021. This last record with all originals (he died in 2021) was recorded, mixed, and mastered at Sacred Cat Studios in Oceanside and Mountain Center by the great Nathan D. James, Harman’s protégé. Harman took him out on the road at a very young age and taught him the ropes. “James Harman was the real deal and he taught me many things as a young man straight out of high school as we travelled across the United States to play American Blues music. I am forever grateful for the experience.“ With this record, Nathan pays respect to his master, and he couldn’t have done a better job.” All the recording were live broadcast during the pandemic. Known for his relaxed, road weathered voice and brilliant harmonica, this newest album does not disappoint. All the songs are full of charm, witty lyrics and incredible music, some of my favorites are “Knock Me Out Again”, “That Old Clock” and “A Handshake”. I think my favorite on this CD is “You Can’t Arrest Me For What’s On My Mind”, listen here. I will give this a posthumous 10+ on Blues Content and a 10+ on Music Content.

International Blues Challenge Winners of 2024!

Winner of the Band Division -Piper & The Hard Times – “Piper & the Hard Times enjoy doing original music, but also are comfortable with established blues, R&B, rock and soul standards. Their shows mix contemporary and classic influences and material, and the band is known to improvise for the crowd, but never so that they become self-indulgent. That balance is maintained by the comfort levels they’ve established with each other through thousands of performances. And with the group’s recent incarnation, there has also been a level of confidence and polish that makes their collective sound even more formidable. The core of Piper & the Hard Times is Al “Piper” Green, Steve Eagon, and Dave Colella and they have known each other since 2000. They are joined by pro-level players covering bass guitar, keyboard/organ, and horns for a big rootsy vibe. Each principal member has an interesting and intriguing personal story to tell. Al “Piper” Green’s lead vocals combine the flamboyance and earthiness of blues with the power and authority of gospel and represent the two biggest influences in his life. Growing up in a very musically inclined family in Bolivar, Tennessee, he sang in a gospel choir growing up while also hearing the best of soul, pop and rock on radio. But Green remembers perhaps his biggest influence, as well as mentor from a sensibility/style approach, was his uncle. “Every 4th of July he’d come down to visit us from Chicago and he’d be riding in this grand blue Fleetwood Cadillac,” Green recalled. “He’d be decked out and have a bunch of folks with him playing the blues. I wasn’t old enough just then to really get the full impact of what I was seeing, but I knew this guy had style and flair and really represented the essence of the blues. I think that’s where I got a lot of my vocal approach from, duplicating that personality and that spirit.” Green contributes to the band’s original songs with lyrics based on personal stories and experience.” Here Piper’s IBC Finals Set.

Joe Waters – Winner of the Solo/Duo Division – “Joe Waters is a multitalented musician out of Dayton Ohio who plays Blues, Funk, Folk, and Americana music. Joe is a singer and a songwriter. He writes original music and he also pays homage to original blues artist by singing old blues standards and deep cuts. His love for playing music started when he was 5 years old after his parents bought him a harmonica from the Cracker Barrel gift shop. Joe dedicated himself to learning not only the harmonica but the guitar, drums, jaw-harp and vocals as well. This talented and skilled young man has poured his heart and soul into his music for the past 20+ years, and he has received well-deserved acknowledgment for his hard work and dedication. When you hear Joe perform, it’s no surprise that he has earned both of those first place titles. His love and passion for music flows from him when he performs. He is currently creating music for his next album, which will be his second album as an Independent Artist. His previous album “In The Hot Seat” was recorded by his friend and fellow musician, Anthony ‘Saxtone’ Arrington. Joe’s father, Jack Waters, has been a musician for 35+ years and Joe expresses his gratitude for his father starting him in his music career. As a duo, Jack and Joe have performed together for 20 years with 4 albums recorded, they have placed 1st in three local Ohio blues contest, and they were semi-finalist in the International Blues Contest. Joe is continually deepening his connection to music and allowing music to flow through him. He knows music has the power to heal the heart and unite the people, and he hopes to keep creating songs that do just that.” Here is Joe’s entire IBC set at the finals –

Stephen Hull Experience – 2nd Place Band – “The blues may not have been born in the state of Wisconsin, but it sure lives there. Born on February 23, 1999, Racine native Stephen Hull (pronounced “Steven”), decided that he would help keep the blues alive by playing his heart and soul out on the guitar at the tender age of 14. Dubbed a young B.B. King, Stephen’s influences from the man himself are readily showcased whenever possible. As a twice semifinalist at the Wilson Center Guitar Competition by the age of 16, Stephen has garnered national attention for his attention to detail and guitar solo style that closely mimics that of Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan. From the streets of Milwaukee and Chicago to the streets of Memphis and Dallas, Stephen brings the blues to the people. Currently performing live for various audiences and touring with various collaborating acts, Stephen is also working on several recording opportunities. Though his roots are in blues, you can believe that R&B, soul, and Jazz music are essential parts of his musical vocabulary. From Duke Ellington, to B.B. King, to Eric Gales, Stephen is a true music lover looking to share his love of music with you and leave his mark on the world.” This is Stephen’s full set at the IBC Finals

Mandalyn & The Hunters – 3rd Place Band Division – “Being classically trained, Mandalyn started competing in various competitions at a young age. In her late teens, she started performing at live venues. Mandalyn’s background includes studio work, voice overs, vocals, song writing, and solo recordings.  Her experiences have prepared her to be a successful front woman in a multi genre band for over 15 years. With her 3rd Place finish at the 2024 International Blues Competition, Mandalyn has proven to be a tremendous force in the world of blues, enthralling listeners with her powerful storytelling and soul-stirring performances. Her songs remind us of the blues’ timeless capacity to touch our souls and mend our hearts, and they stand as a tribute to that power. Mandalyn has decided to take a different approach with her music, her new breakout single “WRECKED” released spring 2020.  “WRECKED” is a sultry mix of powerhouse vocals, crying strats, and an overall seductive blues sound that will leave you breathless.” Here is Mandalyn’s finals set at the IBC.

Drum & Dye – 2nd place Solo/Duo Division – “John Paul Drum has shared the stage with such notable blues harp legends as; Sugar Blue, Junior Wells, Lazy Lester, Kim Wilson, John Mayall, James Harman, Lee Oscar, and Kansas City’s Patriarch of Blues Harmonica; Provine “Little” Hatch and the list goes on… John Paul is currently traveling with a style that he has refined and redefined over the past thirtyfive years. Playing inside the Kansas City blues community for over thirty years and “Hangin’” with Kansas City’s world class jazz musicians has produced a powerful force in his music and technique. Dizzying runs and monster chords provide texture and depth to the emotional swirling blues that ebb and flow from his instrument. His vocals are passionate, wry, gruff, sweet and growing. He has captured the Best Blues Band crown in Kansas City three times, but prefers to travel and perform in the cities outside his home turf. A brief tour of Europe (Barcelona, Spain; Paris and Nantes, France; Brussels and Gembloux, Belgium; Frankfurt and Hofheim, Germany) has assured his love of taking his music further afield. Hard Electric or Sunny Acoustic blues make for rousing, entertaining and eclectic time well spent. John Paul Drum is a bluesman in love with the music and one to be watched for many years to come. Here is Drum’s IBC Finals Set



Become a Sponsor

Underwriting WTJU is a way to broadly share information about your business. It’s also a way for your business or organization to gain community-wide recognition for your support of WTJU’s community mission.

Underwrite a Program


Your gift nourishes our community and helps bring people together through music.

Underwrite a Program