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Jo Harman and Company - Live at Hideaway

Chief Recordings #003/Self-produced 2011 release

8 songs; 42:39 minutes

Styles: Blues Rock, Roots Rock, Blues Ballads

Blues and Rock music is not only popular in North America, but has a significant following “across the pond” for decades! Jo Harman, a songstress with long legs and a voice like thick and tangy honey, proves this with her posse “Live at Hideaway.” This prestigious London club had the honor of hosting her on a snowy December evening. Fortunately for both the band and its fans, no one’s enthusiasm ran cold as the rocking performance blazed on. Born in England’s capital but raised in Devon, Johanna Harman trills her way through both covers and original songs with ease. Eight renditions are featured in this live concert, but by the end of the album, listeners will be hungry for more! Here are three of its most notable numbers:

Track 3: “Heartstring”-- Leaning towards the rock side of blues as does most of the set, this accusatory offering is sharp and pointed. Featuring the magnificent Stevie Watts on keyboards, John McKenzie on bass, and Martin “Magic” Johnson on drums, this is the band’s best mid-tempo melody. “So you cry, baby, but you’re wasting my love,” Jo sneers, and one wonders how long it will be before she calls it quits with her partner. Guitarist Mike Mayfield is featured on some scorching fret runs.

Track 5: “Sideways”-- Even though Jo Harman’s version is a re-working of “Citizen Cope” Greenwood’s classic, it’s still the best blues song on “Live at Hideaway.” It’s one of slow and passionate mixed feelings, a la Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.” In this song, one cannot honestly tell if Jo Harman and Mike Mayfield, in a harmonic duet, wish to stay together or part ways. The lyrics point out that sometimes, it’s hard to sort out how one truly feels when involved in a romantic relationship: “These feelings won’t go away--they’ve been knocking me sideways!”

Track 7: “Sweet Man Moses”-- Jo wrote this poignant ballad for her brothers in light of their father’s premature death. Consequently, raw emotion bleeds forth from every word that escapes her lips, even though they‘re soft and sweet. The deceased may not have been a perfect man, but Harman exhorts her siblings to “raise the bar where he went wrong” and remember their father was “warm as the daylight on the roses.” A quavering eulogy, its message is one of forgiveness and love.

On her website, Harman says this about Live at Hideaway: “I want to make a classic album, one that sounds just as good in ten years’ time. I’ve had [several people] all telling me to follow the main chance and they are all well-meaning, but I’m just going to go ahead and make it!” Her efforts have paid off, and this album already fulfills Jo’s goal of bringing a timeless sound to timeless songs.

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 32 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

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