Review: Zac Harmon's new set mixes blues with other genres

The Blade
The Blade

As Long As I Got My Guitar

Zac Harmon. Catfood Records

Suffice it to say that when you’ve produced hits by legends such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Carlos Santana, you don’t need to waste your time on any ordinary guitarist.

Grammy-winning producer Jim Gaines, who also has produced pop acts such as Huey Lewis and the News, sees something special in Texas-based bluesman Zac Harmon and that’s great for us, the listeners.

He’s no ordinary guitarist.

Harmon can be as wicked and nimble on the fretboard as anyone. But what seems more evident from this 10-song set is his ability to weave the blues with a little funk, soul, gospel, reggae, and other genres into a sound that’s familiar and comfortable, yet fresh.

The 10 songs on this disc were written by Harmon and Catfood Records owner Bob Trenchard, canvassing familiar blues themes of love and heartache, along with hope and inspiration. His title track is a barn burner. Upbeat songs include “Soul Land” and “Love for You Baby,” while numbers such as “People Been Talking” and “Waiting to Be Free” show real grit.

On a personal note, I found the Zydeco influence from Dan Ferguson’s accordion on “Crying Shame” to be a pleasant surprise that gave the disc a little extra dimension.

As Long As I Got My Guitar is a strong follow-up to Harmon’s critically acclaimed 2019 album, Mississippi BarBQ. One of the better descriptions of him comes from blues journalist Don Wilcock who summed him up like this: “Bobby Blue Bland uptown sophistication with a touch of Freddie King guitar.”

In addition to being encouraged by the musical talents of his parents, Harmon grew up in Jackson, Miss. near a music instructor who hosted Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, and Harry Belafonte in her home at various times. Another neighbor, Bill Farris, a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, worked with noted folklorist Alan Lomax and founded the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi.

Harmon’s released several previous albums and, as his publicist said, has toured from Memphis to Mumbai.

He said he considers Long As I Got My Guitar “the most memorable record of my career.”

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