June 18, 2024

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CD review: Big Harp George – Cut My Spirit Loose – 2023: Video, CD cover

Cut My Spirit Loose’ is the fifth album Big Harp George and the beautiful successor to ‘Living In The City’ from 2020 and just like that album, Cut My Spirit Loose is full of West Coast Swing Blues in all its styles.

And once again this album shows the versatility of George Bisharat (stage name Big Harp George) as a player of the chromatic harmonica, as a singer and as a highly original songwriter.

The album starts with the warm-up It’s Tuesday, West Coast Swing including doo-wop choirs. That George writes original lyrics is evident from the one-two punch between him (vocals) and Chris Burns’ boogie-woogie piano about Pile Driving Sam, a handsome construction worker cum womanizer, who turns the heads of the women in the village and the village then has to leave head over heels in pursuit of the ladies’ jealous husbands.

Musically, George and his band go wild from the third song, the jazzy Give Me The Dark with beautiful harmonica work. Then we end up in the middle of a Mardi Gras party in New Orleans (Bustin’ Out). In those last two songs we hear the similarities between Dr. John and Big Harp George when it comes to mixing traditional music styles. Dr. John based in New Orleans and Big Harp George based in Westcoast Swing.

Surprisingly next is the Beatles cover She’s A Woman, which gets a beautiful Latin boogaloo performance, a version that would have been especially appreciated by John Lennon. It then becomes personal in two beautiful swing jazz songs about George’s dog Lulu: My Dog Is Better Than You and Jump Abu Lula!. In the first of the two songs we even hear a guest appearance from Lulu himself, who barks perfectly out of time a few times at the end of the song.

The Swing jazz then turns into Swing blues with the lockdown song Prince Of Downward Mobility and the bump blues Ranty Town (Ranzige Stad) about publicity horny corona conspiracy thinkers, which George firmly deals with by chasing them out of his city. The associated hypocrisy is tackled in Take A Knee with beautiful vocals from The Soul Revivers.

In Sunrise Stroll, George once again shows that he is a master of the chromatic harmonica, after which ‘Cut My Spirit Loose’ closes with an emotional ode to Captain Jack (Kintpuash), the chief of the Indian people Modoc, who originally lived in the lived in northern California.

I love the diversity of the songs. I’ve been listening to blues for better than 50 years, so my ears crave variety. Believe me, I still love and regularly listen to the blues greats of our past, but we cannot push the blues forward unless we sing and play to our current circumstances. I try to play music that I, myself, would like to hear, and I think we succeeded pretty well at that with this album.

One other thing: I really dug in and tried to improve my harp playing for this album, and I think the songs reflect my effort. With that I still have a long way to go to match the technical prowess of chromatic players in other genres. The cool thing is that even at my current level I’ve been able to lay down some nice harp work, even on my first album. I even see on social media that harp players are starting to try to play some of my solos and to cover some of my harp tunes. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! Over the last several years, we’ve slowly been accumulating a set of Christmas originals. It was never my plan to release a Christmas album, but the song ideas kept coming, we would record a few alongside each of the album sessions we were doing. By the end of May we’ll have recorded 10 Christmas songs that we plan to release as an album later this year. It will be unlike any out there – not sentimental, but instead humorous and socially relevant – and, in my humble opinion, very strong musically. Meanwhile we have also completed six more songs toward a regular album for 2024. Also by May we intend to record another six and be done with the music for that release. After that we’ll have to see. I want to do another round of woodshedding after May like I did before “Cut My Spirit Loose.” I want to keep pushing my harp skills forward, because there’s still a lot to learn and a lot of room for growth. By now my musical team for recording is pretty well set. Chris Burns (keys and producer) has been with me from my first album, as has Kid Andersen (sound engineer and guitar among other instruments) and Michael Peloquin (saxes). Mike Rinta (trombone, tuba) joined us for the second album and has been playing a bigger and bigger role over time. June Core and Derrick D’Mar Martin have been at the drum kit, and Derrick has been adding percussion. And for the two past albums, plus the two we’re working on now, the Sons of the Soul Revivers (James, Walter, and Dwayne Morgan) have become an integral part of our sound. These are all really fine musicians, the best at their craft in this area at least, if not nationally or internationally. They’re also great people. We get along, we have fun together, and there is a special, near familial relationship that develops when you team together to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Believe me, I count my blessings to have them in my band. As you likely know, we lost Little Charlie Baty in March of 2020. We had just completed the sessions for “Living in the City,” in which Charlie played brilliantly, and I’m quite sure, for the last time in studio. There’s no replacing Charlie, and we all still miss him sorely,- an interview with me said Big Harp George.

With ‘Cut My Spirit Loose’ Big Harp George has once again firmly confirmed his status as Master of The West Coast Swing Blues. An interesting personality in Blues, energetic and cheerful, multi-genre musician. He looks like an interesting interlocutor, a pleasant interlocutor, we will definitely meet in the near future. Enjoy his interview and video, buy the CD and listen for sure.

Tracks:
01. It’s Tuesday
02. Pile Driving Sam
03. Give Me the Dark
04. Bustin’ Out
05. She’s a Woman
06. My Dog Is Better Than You
07. Jump Abu Lula!
08. Prince of Downward Mobility
09. Rantytown
10. Behind the Eight Ball
11. Take a Knee
12. Sunrise Stroll
13. Captain Jack

Buy from here – New CD 2023

Big Harp George - Cut My Spirit Loose

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