fea. Mark Hummel, Lil Charlie Baty, & Anson Funderburgh
This is the debut release of what is being billed as a new supergroup. They are led by Mark Hummel, a Grammy nominated blues harmonica player, vocalist, songwriter and bandleader. Hummel formed his band The Blues Survivors in 1980. Since 1991 Hummel has produced the Blues Harmonica Blowout, a touring revue, with himself, The Blues Survivors and guest harmonica players. Blues Survivor members have included Charles Wheal, Jimmy Bott, Rusty Zinn, Ronnie James, Chris Masterson, Joel Foy and June Core. Past Harmonica Blowouts have included guest harpists Charlie Musselwhite, Snooky Pryor, James Cotton, Kim Wilson, Magic Dick, Rod Piazza, Paul DeLay, James Harman, Mitch Kasmar, Huey Lewis, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Lee Oskar, Jerry Portnoy, and many others. From the Blowouts grew this supergroup.
Hummel had always enlisted fabulous guitarists as part of his tours. When Hummel asked “Little” Charlie Baty to join he got himself a winner. Baty who used to front Little Charlie & The Nightcats originally formed that group in 1976. Baty had decided to take a break after thirty years of touring and had entered a period of soft retirement. Spending time with The Harmonica Blowout re-ignited a spark.
As a contrast to Baty’s incandescent guitar attack Hummel also enlisted Texas guitarist Anson Funderburgh. Funderburgh had formed Anson Funderburgh and The Rockets back in 1981. His first vocalist was Darrell Nulisch who left the band in 1985. Funderburgh replaced him with Sam Myers who although blind stayed with The Rockets until his death in 2006. Funderburgh who also decided to take a hiatus seldom recorded but did some production for various artists including John Nemeth and The Andy T – Nick Nixon Band.
Hummel runs a loose aggregation, and along with the rhythm section of bassist RW Grisby and veteran drummer Wes Starr, also from Anson and The Rockets, things began to gel. In 2014 Electro-Fi Records released Mark Hummel’s “The Hustle is Really On” with the exact same band lineup. They decided to re-brand themselves as a California meets Texas super-group and call themselves The Golden State-Lone Star Revue. They also decided to record this “debut” at Kid Anderson’s Greaseland Studio in San Jose, Ca. Strangely it was also Anderson who had replaced Baty as the guitarist in The Nightcats; talent prevails. The album is co-produced by Funderburgh and Hummel.
The band opens with “Midnight Hour” from Clarence Gatemouth Brown. The first guitar we hear is Funderburgh’s. The second guitar solo is Baty. Hummel’s vocal is clearly inspired.
“Here’s My Picture” was written by Billy Boy Arnold. Starr propels the song with his drums. Hummel gets a great tone from his harp.
“Prove It to You” is the first of four Hummel originals. Guesting on organ is Jimmy Pugh who used to play in the Robert Cray Band. Baty takes a wicked guitar solo. On “Cool To Be Your Fool”, Pugh switches to piano. “Lucky Kewpie Doll” features Baty on guitar.
“Check Yourself” is from Lowell Fulson. It features the twin saxes of Eric Spaulding and Jack Sanford. Once again Pugh sits in on piano.
“Stop This World” is the Mose Allison classic. On his vocal Hummel sings in a Allison like falsetto. Hummel also takes a fantastic chromatic harp solo. Pugh switches back to organ. I love the production on this track.
The band covers two songs from Jimmy McCracklin. “Take A Chance” was composed by McCracklin with Robert Geddins. Funderburgh lays down the rhythm on his guitar. Pugh takes a fine organ solo. Hummel’s vocal and accompanying harp solo make this track my favorite. The other cover from McCracklin is the rockin’ “Georgia Slop”.
“Pepper Mama” is credited as traditional with an arrangement from Hummel. It is another great vocal from Hummel.
“Walking With Mr. Lee” is an instrumental from Lee Allen a great New Orleans sax player. Pugh is again on organ. Starr goes wild on the drums. “Detroit Blues” is a topical tune about the mortgage crisis. It was written by Grigsby. “Dim Lights” is from J.B. Hutto. The album closes with “End of The World” the last of the originals written by Hummel.
The production by Funderburgh and Hummel is fabulous and the addition of Pugh equally so. This is also the best I have ever heard from Hummel and a stellar recording. Hummel, Funderburgh, Baty, Starr, and Grigsby are definitely a supergroup.