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Gary Primich - Just A Little Bit More ... with Omar Dykes

Old Pal Records

Two Discs; 23 songs; Disc 1 45:49, Disc 2 42:41 minutes; Library Quality

Styles: Harmonica led Modern and Traditional Electric Blues, Rock and Roll; Jazzy Blues

I was privileged to see Gary Primich perform live, but only once. He was touring in support of his 2002 release, “Dog House Music” with the multi-talented Jeff Turmes on bass, Shorty Lenoir on guitar, and harmony vocalist Jim Starboard on drums. Primich was built like a fire-plug, about 5’ 9” tall, slightly wide, and road-conditioned-solid. During the second set, Turmes switched from bass to screaming Delta Slide guitar for three songs. After the show, I asked Turmes how he got Primich to let him play guitar on those songs. Before Jeff could answer, the overhearing Primich wheeled around and needled, “It was all the whining and begging!” Therein lay the prankish humor of the late, great harmonica standout, band leader, guitarist, vocalist, and song writer, Gary Primich. Demonstrating his well studied versatility, Gary closed the first set by playing his harp like Al Hirt’s trumpet on Hirt’s 1965 Grammy winning instrumental “Java.”

That “Blue Monday” at The Alamo bar in Springfield IL was ten years ago June 17, 2002, and now, Gary has already been gone almost five years, succumbing to an accidental drug overdose in September 2007. Gary’s father, Jack Primich, began this project to keep Gary’s memory and music alive but mainly to showcase his wonderful talent. “Just a Little Bit More …with Omar Dykes” features 23 cuts of prime Gary Primich recordings that range from 1994 to 2006 and represent such CD titles as “Travelin’ Mood (1994),” “Mr. Freeze (1995),” and “Ridin’ the Darkhorse (2006).” There are seven previously unreleased tracks, courtesy of Omar, when Gary was a sideman with Omar Dykes between 1996 and 1997 (when a tempestuous Gary was temporarily fed up with all the responsibilities being of a bandleader, and he asked Omar if he could just play and have fun). Also included are several songs that first appeared on such Omar & the Howlers albums as “Muddy Springs Road,” “Swingland” and “World Wide Open” highlighting Primich’s unique talents as a harmonica player.

Primich was born in 1958 in Chicago, was raised in Gary (Hobart) Indiana, and was taught Blues harmonica by the masters at the legendary Maxwell Street Market. As a teenager, Gary got into Blues listening to the The Allman Brothers on FM radio. In a 2002 radio interview with Joliet DJ Chicago Slim, Gary revealed, “I remember being in my friend’s car under the influence of something that wasn’t legal and hearing the Allman Brothers version of ‘Hootchie Cootchie Man.’ Then they backed it with the original Muddy Waters version. That is what started me investigating and picking up records by him and Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf, and people like that.” In 1984 Primich relocated to Austin TX and built a career that resulted in him being universally recognized by his peers as one of the country’s best Blues harpists. An artist whose entire focus was to just get better and better, he guest-appeared with many other artists (like Marcia Ball, Ruthie Foster, Mike Morgan and the Crawl, Doyle Bramhall, and Jimmie Vaughan) and on some of their recordings and toured worldwide.

This compilation which covers so many years of Gary Primich's career is a diverse menu of Blues and Rock and Roll which allows witness to his progression musically and lyrically. It is more of a career overview than a greatest hits CD. Cathi Norton in the liner notes writes, “[Gary] loved hard, played hard, made us laugh and made us crazy. Moderation was a stranger.” The first cut on Disc 1, “Satellite Rock” furiously demonstrates that quote and is a metaphor for that part of his lifestyle.

Styles range from the Bo Diddley rhythm of “Hoo Doo Ball,” the up-tempo shuffle of “Sweet Fine Angel,” to the finger-snapping, mid-tempo jazz of “School of Hard Knocks.” One of the previously unreleased gems is Jimmy Reed’s “Down in Mississippi,” with only Primich on harp and Dykes singing with his acoustic guitar. As the album’s title indicates, the CD showcases the special musical relationship Gary Primich had with Omar Kent Dykes, who sings and plays guitar on many of the tracks. Four standout tracks are Primich instrumentals including an especially lively version of Duke Ellington's “Caravan.” Variety abounds as the songs were recorded with different groups in different studios at different times; some are simple, with electric guitar, bass, drums and harp while others have horn sections.

The musicians on the CD represent a veritable “who’s who” of Austin’s finest, including Gary Clark, Jr., Derek O’Brien, Sarah Brown, Wes Starr, Mark Korpi, Dave Biller, Jay Moehler, Nick Connolly, George Rains, Mark Rubin and Billy Horton. There are more players listed in the liner notes who were regular members of Gary Primich’s band through the years, either on record or on tour.

Unless you already own everything Gary Primich recorded, get this double set for your library. In the process, you’ll gain seven previously unreleased songs and a treasure of great Blues from a too-soon-departed master.

Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL.

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