Mitch Kashmar - Live at Labatt
10 songs; 66:07; Suggested
Style: Electric Harmonica Blues, Harmonica Lead Electric Chicago Blues, West Coast Jazz- Blues
“Ethiopian spit-whistle, Mississippi saxophone, tin sandwich, mouth organ, harmonica, harp....” – call it what you will; it is one of the most celebrated instruments in the blues. The pantheon of great players is equally celebrated as true blues fans recognize the harmonica as one of the earliest instruments in the genre, dating in the US to the middle 1800s.
Among modern harp players, California’s Mitch Kashmar has earned a well deserved reputation as a master on both the diatonic and chromatic harmonicas, in addition to being a soulful vocalist. In this live set, the recipient of 2006 and 2007 Blues Music Award nominations is particularly entertaining on chromatic harp.
Mitch became curious about blues and live music as a teenager checking out local bands in Santa Barbara. By 1980, he formed his own group, The Pontiax, and performed throughout Southern California. Around the mid-80s, Mitch moved to Los Angeles, and The Pontiax recorded their first CD and soon went on the road touring throughout the US, Canada, Europe and the South Pacific. By 2000, Kashmar had gained acclaim as a solo artist, even touring with the funk-rock band War and appearing onstage alongside legendary British rocker Eric Burdon & War for a reunion concert held on April 21, 2008 at London's Royal Albert Hall.
This live CD is from Friday, August 24, 2007, when Kashmar performed at the 9th Annual Edmonton's Labatt Blues Festival in Canada. Joining Kashmar on this release are ex-Pontiax drummer Tom Lackner, bassist Steve Nelson, pianist Jimmy Calire, and former William Clarke guitarist John Marx. The live concert format allows Kashmar and the band to stretch out instrumentally, running all songs past the five minute mark. It is a fun program featuring fan favorites off his two critically acclaimed Delta Groove releases and additional material including “Lollipop Mama,” a tribute to the late great William Clarke.
The set opens upbeat with “I Got No Reason,” one of three Kashmar originals, and it instantly defines the swinging West Coast sound. He keeps stoking the fire with “Dirty Deal,” another Kashmar original that has the audience audibly grooving along.
Humorously dedicating the third cut to his “ex,” Mitch tweets his way into a slow version of Lou Donaldson and Leon Spencer’s “Whiskey Drinkin' Woman.” Mitch’s emotive vocals explain that she is so bad that she “puts whiskey in her beer” and “whiskey in her whiskey.” The narrator lovers her, but she’d “pawn my wedding ring” for another shot! John Marx’s guitar solo really shines here.
Track five is where Mitch switches to chromatic harp and the West Coast magic kicks in on the nine minute plus, jazz-tinged “Song For My Father,” that features some deft bass work and band interplay highlighted by Kashmar’s scales.
Kashmar next pays tribute to Muddy Waters on “Sugar Sweet” and Jimmy Rogers in the seven minute workout “You're The One.”
A short intro regarding the Southern California harmonica “style of our own” and “good old buddy” William Clarke precedes Mitch's up tempo romp on “Lollipop Mama.”
Mitch’s own CD title track, “Wake Up and Worry” smoothly swings as it deals with bad economic conditions like, “... it doesn’t take a mathematician to see I owe more than I can pay.”
“Castle Rock,” a song Mitch credits having learned from playing with guitarist John Marx closes the set. If there was an encore, it sadly did not make it on the album.
Many will advocate that blues is best heard live. The crowds and cold beer may be missing, but this CD goes a long way supporting that argument!
Reviewer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard each Thursday from 4:30 – 6:00pm on WKCC 91.1 FM in Kankakee, IL