Monday, July 28, 2014

Introducing Sydney Blues Artist Gareth Jay

Gareth Jay is an independent Blues/Alternative musician based in Sydney, Australia. You can often find him performing across Sydney with his astonishing live looping, intricate guitar skills, complex vocals and funky harmonica skills known to keep his audiences at the edge of their seat.

Gareth has an intimate passion for blues and acoustic music, which is seen with his latest tracks Blue, Blue Sky and FuhFuhFuh” featuring James Gillard. He derives influences from Albert King, Elliott Smith, Donovan, Carole King, The Beatles, and Dr John.

Previous career highlights include performing in Japan for 4 months, composing and performing for the Adelaide Fringe Festival, featuring on Tall Ships in Sydney Harbour, supporting Deisel at Lizotte's with his trio JayMayJane and travelling along the East Coast of Australia to play shows at various venues including the Tamworth Country Music Festival.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Women of the Liam Ward

This is the second of a series of articles about the harmonica and its history as written and presented by Liam Ward.

When it comes to harmonica, men get all the attention. Not today! This is a tribute to the ladies. Let’s look at some of the big players in the other corner…

Historically, Big Mama Thornton is the most well-known woman of blues harmonica. (You have probably seen the famous photo of her with that brilliant grin of hers.) Thornton worked first as a dancer in Georgia before taking to blues and playing extremely confident harmonica to accompany her strong vocals. She became a star in the ‘50s, recording with the likes of James Cotton, Muddy Waters and Otis Spann.

Big Mama Thornton was rare in her time, and sadly female harp players are still hard to find. There are some gems out there, though, if you know where to look. Let me give you a few names.

Unsurprisingly, the US has a sizable offering in the blues arena. Annie Raines ( is an extremely accomplished country blues player, who along with Paul Rishell has won a Blues Music Award. Over the course of a distinguished career she has become an important authority on the instrument. Another American who keeps getting mentioned is ‘the New York Blues Queen’ Roxy Perry ( She’s big and strong and her playing really packs a punch.

Annie Raines

Roxy Perry


Outside the US, Christelle Berthon has become known through her famed YouTube performances. She has an extremely emotive style of playing and has shown her prowess over a number of years (check out an interview and some clips here:

Sandra Vazquez ( is a new and refreshing name to me. She is a member of Argentinian band Mulheres Gaitistas, has studied with Lee Oscar and is billed as Argentina’s best harmonica player.

Kat Baloun ( is a Berlin-based harmonica player who grew up in a musical family in Ohio. Look her up to see her big attitude on stage and hear some inspired harp.

If you want to find out more about female harmonica players, there’s a great – and brilliantly titled – resource on the web, ( featuring information and videos from players of all genres and all over the world.

Liam Ward

Liam Ward is a UK-based harmonica player and teacher, and founder of He is a former National Harmonica League Player of the Year and a regular contributor to Harmonica World magazine and Blues in Britain. Liam currently plays with hokum blues outfit The Rumblestrutters as well as appearing as a guest with many other artists.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bryan Himes...One Night In the release from Kentucky songwriter

Take a trip to the delta and experience Bryan Himes sitting roadside by a full moon playing the blues like only he can. It feels and sounds like your right there with him in the dead of the night as the hounds howl off in the distance, crickets chirping, a cold chill runs up your spine. What was that sound? Did you hear that?

A soulful songwriter who records most of his material live,relying on vibe and musicianship, Bryan Himes is a breath of fresh air with his diverse selection of songs.He has shared the stage with Everlast, Chip Taylor, Tommy Womack, Carrie Rodriguez, Paul 'Wine" Jones, to name a few. His music has been played all over the world along side greats like Buddy Guy and John Lee Hooker. 

Bottom Line: One Voice, one guitar... that's what you get.. you might think it would't be very entertaining, or limiting in style, but you would be very very wrong.... the music is excellent... Bryan has the ability to put himself on the line with just his voice and his acoustic guitar. 4 out of 5 Stars”....Robert T Murphy - Blues on Stage by the Blues Foundation

Heartily inspired by Son House, Robert Johnson, Keb Mo, and Jimi Hendrix, he is boiling water, white-flaming excitement and high-wired... he is a habanero pepper.. all emotion hanging out, gut-churning and gritty...”  CD Baby

“..shows he can carry the show alone.. displays an excellent voice.. nice job of modernizing a Robert Johnson feel... Promising” Blues Revue

Marty's review: Bryan Himes takes traditional blues straight from the Delta and gives his own personal touch with a vocal style that's more than reminiscent of the Delta blues men, and a slide guitar sound that wraps around your ears and makes you feel like reaching for that shot of Bourbon. He does exceptional renditions of classics like My Babe and Boom Boom plus searing electric blues on I Love Everything About You and Beautiful One, and country blues on Goin' Down South and If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day. The instrumental Passing Into the Infinite is a treat for the ears with high voltage feedback guitar travelling from left to right channels and surrounding your space with sound. An album worthy to have in your collection that will earn repeated plays.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Brandon EP release from roots and soul singer/songwriter/guitarist

Roots & Soul singer/songwriter/guitarist Brandon Reeves has spent most of his time and energy performing 150 to 200 dates a year since 2008. Brandon's music is a cross between the guitar playing of John Hurt, the songwriting wit of John Prine and the soulful vocals of Sam Cooke. He has also shared the stage with Tab Benoit, Mark Rivera of Hall & Oates band and Ringo Starr's All Star Band, and members of the Zac Brown Band. 

Tom Wardman of Red Label Reviews said of his recent release, A Decent Melody, “His album offers so many different musical genres within the album itself, but also within independent tunes. It's Bluesy. It's groovy, It's Rocky. It's quite frankly awesome – I have no words to describe it! For that reason, you should check out his work yourself!”

He has a new EP of folk music coming out on Tuesday July 22nd will also be releasing new videos from the album each Tuesday leading up the the July 22nd release.

find out more here

Friday, July 4, 2014

Tragic Heroes of Jug Band Harmonica by Liam Ward

This is the first of a series of articles on harmonica playing I will be featuring on the blog. It was written and submitted by Liam Ward from

Jug band music uses a host of weird and wonderful instruments. Aside from the jug, there’s the washtub bass, spoon, kazoo and even the comb. In this context, the expressive and influential use of harmonica can often be overlooked.

As a jug band harmonica player, I decided to do some research. (Best check out the competition, even if they were recording almost a century ago!) What follows is a story of two virtuoso harmonica players and one great musical tradition.

Noah Lewis was born in 1890 (or was it 1895… nobody’s sure), and at a young age had already attracted attention for the volume and tone he could muster, abilities he developed playing in local string and marching bands. He was also renowned for his ability to play two harmonicas simultaneously using mouth and nose (it’s said that he passed this trick on to Walter Horton). In 1907 he ran into travelling musician Gus Cannon, and they formed the trio Cannon, Lewis and Thompson. The popularity of another harmonica player, however, was to change the direction of their trio - and jug band music - forever.

Cannon's Jug Stompers

In the late 1920s another harmonica player by the name of Will Shade was becoming popular with his band the Memphis Jug Band. Seeing this, Cannon added a ‘jug’ (actually a coal-oil can) to his trio and so was born Cannon’s Jug Stompers. During the band’s sessions, Lewis recorded four solo tracks plus four sides as the Noah Lewis Jug Band. Perhaps his most celebrated playing from this era is the haunting solo in ‘Viola Lee Blues’ from 1928.

Lewis experienced problems with cocaine, his abilities declined and he disappeared into obscurity for thirty years, as did Cannon. In the winter of 1961, the story goes that Lewis became lost out in the cold, with only threadbare clothes to protect him from the biting winter chill, and succumbed to frostbite. He died in poverty, and alone. Had he lived another year, he would have seen his old friend Cannon’s ‘Walk Right In’ take mainstream white culture by storm. As a result of the Rooftop Singers’ hit single version of that song, the then-79-year-old Gus Cannon was asked to record an album for Stax Records. The offer came just too late for Lewis. But who else played on that recording? Why, Will Shade, of course.

Will Shade was not only a harmonica player but a multi-instrumentalist, bandleader and composer. He set up the Memphis Jug Band when he heard the first jug band recordings coming out of Louisville, Kentucky. Shade played guitar, the "bullfiddle" or washtub bass, and the harmonica, and sang too. His distinctive country blues harmonica influenced several big-name harmonica players of the next generation. Over forty years a large number of rotating musicians were backed up by the ubiquitous Shade on recordings billed as the Memphis Jug Band. A particular favourite of mine is Stealin’ Stealin’ in which Shade, as far as I can tell, flips between two harmonicas - one in first position and one in second – in order to get the high note for the chorus.

Shade was a conscientious businessman and through the band was able to buy a house plus a chunk of record company stock, but the Great Depression hit him hard. With the decline of the industry and the change of the public’s musical taste, the Memphis Jug Band grew quiet.

Thirty years later, blues revivalists found Shade and some of his old bandmates still playing together, along with old rival Gus Cannon. Shade, by now, was not a well man. Charlie Musselwhite says that around this time he would visit Shade and give money and alcohol if he could afford it. One time he found Shade’s arm burning from a nearby heater. He was so weak that he couldn’t move away from the heat. Musselwhite helped him to lie down and played some harmonica for him. “You been up in Chicago, boy!” said Shade, “You got that Chicago sound now. You go ahead on boy!” Musselwhite never saw him again. In a tale eerily similar to that of Lewis, Shade died of pneumonia, a poor man.

For many years his body lay in an unmarked grave. However, this story isn’t all doom and gloom. In 2008 a group of musicians held a fundraiser and purchased a headstone for Shade's grave, and also managed to sponsor a spot on the Beale Street walk of fame for the Memphis Jug Band.

The fact that there is still an interest in the music of these great musicians is thanks partly to awareness raised by passionate bands of the 1960s. In addition to the Rooftop Singers, we had the Grateful Dead recording Stealin’ as their first single, Jim Kweskin’s Boston-based jug band (with Mel Lyman on harmonica) and The Lovin’ Spoonful citing jug band music as their inspiration.

Fifty years on jug band harmonica is rarely heard, but let’s look on the bright side. It’s not a saturated market, so pick up your harmonica, grab a washboard and start a jug band today. Shade and Lewis are out there somewhere listening.

Liam Ward

Liam Ward is a UK-based harmonica player and teacher, and founder of He is a former National Harmonica League Player of the Year and a regular contributor to Harmonica World magazine and Blues in Britain. Liam currently plays with hokum blues outfit The Rumblestrutters as well as appearing as a guest with many other artists.

Thanks Liam for an excellent, well written and researched article....Marty