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East Side SlimBy East Side Slim

Steve Guyger - Radio Blues Steve Guyger - Radio Blues
{Severn Records, 2008}

Steve Guyger is a Philly-based harp player & singer. If you like the way guys played harp in the 50s & 60s, you’ll love Guyger’s work. His harp work is incredibly deep & soulful, and the difficulty of what he does will sneak up on you. Steve is also blessed with a burnished voice that he uses with great skill to help push the emotions of his songs across to the listener. Folks, Steve Guyger is the real deal. You’re not going to get a lot of flash & bombast with Guyger’s harp playing. What you are going to get is deep, emotional, heartfelt playing that is at the same time technically difficult. Oh, did I forget to mention that his harp tone is HUGE? It’s like the Grand Canyon, baby!

Steve played harmonica with blues legend Jimmie Rogers for approximately 15 years, beginning around 1980. Jimmie came up with Little Walter and the other Chicago legends, so if he taps you to play harp in his band it is an enormous stamp of approval.

Guyger is considered a harp-players harp player, and for proof of that I give you a quote from Rick Estrin (front man for Little Charlie & The Nightcats), taken from the liner notes of “Radio Blues”: “I used to ask Jerry (Portnoy) if he ever ran across any harp players who I wasn’t aware of and who I should be hip to (circa 1974.) The only two names he mentioned were Kim Wilson and Steve Guyger. Well, he was right on then and it’s still true today.”

The songs: -- all tracks by Steve Guyger unless otherwise noted.

1. Lookie Here –
A blue’s bump ‘n’ grind; you could envision an old-school stripper working to this song. Great set opener – it hits you right in the gut (or maybe lower !) This is the Blues – Hoo Ha!

2. You’re So Fine – Straight ahead Chicago shuffle blues. This one is in the style of Little Walter Jacobs. Steve can blow, man; just sit back and enjoy his tone! Aw, man…this stuff swings like crazy!

3. Cool In The Evening – Here we hear the Muddy Waters influence. Slow, moody, no one’s in any hurry. This track just oozes feel.

4. Little Rita – There’s a little Louisiana spice flavoring this one. Dig Steve’s playing on the harmonica what would normally be accordion parts. Ai-eeeeeee!

5. Blues Won’t Let Me Be – The chromatic harp makes an appearance on this song, and it sounds so nice. This is deep, slow blues, with Steve’s singing pulling you in. Shades of George “Harmonica” Smith with the chromatic sound – I got chills listening to this song. You also have to dig the cool brushwork by the drummer.

6. School’s Over – There’s a little rumba seasoning here, making for a sly-sounding funky little track

7. Afghan Rumble – Instrumental. Just Guyger on harp along with a drummer who’s playing a small kit. Definitely back porch style. This song also has a Louisiana flavor to it. Steve and Robb Stupka (the drummer) playing on the porch at someone’s crawfish boil. Yeah, that sounds about right.

8. I’m Shakin’ (Rudy Toombs) – A laid-back blues drag with nice, understated drum work. Listen closely to Guyger’s harp playing here; I’m not sure how a player can do so much musically through playing so few notes. It’s all feel and tone!

9. Oh Red (Joe McCoy) – Steve took this old pre-war song and drastically changed the arrangement, although he did choose to play acoustic harp here. This track has some of the back-porch feel, too, and at the time it’s also plenty funky. Go figure?!

10. I Can See By Your Eyes – A mid-tempo love song of sorts. It would be nice for a dance-along with your special someone. More killer acoustic harp, too. The tune reminds me of some of the great swamp pop that used to come out of Excello Records.

11. Won’t You Come On Out Tonight – This track roughens things up a bit after the previous poppier track (that’s swamp pop). The guitar sound is nice and distorted, like something Lonesome Sundown might have thrown at you. I dig this track a lot – Steve even pulls out the chromatic toward the end of the song. Great stuff, Maynard!

12. Hey Little Baby – Definitely Gulf Coast influenced, with Steve again playing accordion lines on the harmonica. The two instruments are cousins after all. This song has a cajuny, shave-and-a-haircut beat and feel. You don’t believe me? Listen for yourself. Think “Little Liza Jane” and you’ll be in the ballpark, well, swamp really, but you get the drift.

13. Let Me Hang Around (McKinley Morganfield) – Hard core Chicago Blues – it’s a Muddy tune people! Steve just wails on this one, on harp & on vocals. It might be a slow blues, but it’s incredibly intense. Guyger is the Real Deal folks! (I think I said that earlier, too, so it must be true.)

14. Honeydripper (Joe Liggins) – Instrumental. Yep, it’s Joe Liggins’ “Honeydripper” arranged as a harp-based instrumental. You can imagine the train you’re riding on rolling down the line…great set closing tune.

The Verdict:
This album (they are still albums, aren’t they?) is a tribute to the music Steve grew up listening to on the radio, the stuff that instilled his love in the music. That emotional tie and his great skills as a musician are evident on every track on this cd. The Severn Records house band backed Guyger here, and they deserve mention. Johnny Moeller (now playing guitar with the Fabulous Thunderbirds), Steve Gomes, Robb Stupka and Bill Heid had plenty to do with making this album the wonderful piece of work it is. Hats off to the band!

I’m a huge blues harp fan, and have been a fan of Mr. Guyger’s for a LONG time, so the rating I give to this cd may be biased. That said, I’m going to give this cd a rating of 4.8 on the blues-o-meter. If you dig great harp, true ensemble playing and cool songs, this disc is for you.

Lee 'East Side Slim' Howland
The STLBluesometer

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