As Long As I Got My Guitar
Long As I Got My Guitar is the latest from Texas-based blues singer/guitarist Zac Harmon who returns to Bob Trenchard’s Catfood label and again taps producer Jim Gaines, recording at Trenchard’s base studio, the Sonic Ranch, near El Paso. Although Harmon is based in Texas, he originally hails from Jackson, MS and spent a good portion of his career in Los Angeles. His guitar sound reflects Chicago, soul-blues, west coast, classic Southern sounds, as well as those from Texas, Freddie King being an influence. This is his label follow-up to 2019’s Mississippi Bar BQ and features a similar cast, The Rays, who are Bob Trenchard (bass), Richy Puga (drums), and Dan Ferguson (keyboards), plus SueAnn Carwell and Corey Lacey on select tracks. Harmon’s road band of Cory Lacey (keyboards), Chris Gipson (bass), and Jamil Byron (drums) all play on “Love for You Baby” and Lacey adds his keys to two others.
Most tunes are co-written by Harmon and Trenchard, beginning with the down and dirty “Deal with the Devil.” Harmon is one of the strongest, though not widely heralded, contemporary blues artists on the scene, combining soulful vocals and searing guitar lines that make him an acclaimed live performer. His stinging guitar is prominent from the outset. “People Been Talking” takes on more on a soul-blues hue with its background vocals while “Crying Shame” touches on zydeco as Ferguson plays accordion. “Soul Land” returns to the smooth urban croon. “Love for You Baby,” featuring his road band, surprisingly stays in a similar breezy soul groove.
The title track rather obviously accentuates his six-string and has some echoes of Albert King’s “I’ll Play the Blues for You.” “Waiting to Be Free” carries that same gutsy, stinging vibe while “New Year’s Day” with its background vocals” and searing guitars is one of the best examples of how Harmon meshes the two styles. “Imagine a Prayer,” though, is a merge of gospel and soul that sounds just a tad too slick compared to the others. The closer, “Ashes to the Wind” is a heart-wrenching ballad where Harmon summons his deep vocal strengths, making it perhaps the most memorable track.
Surely there are some pandemic thoughts behind the title and even some of his songs, but in the end, Harmon sounds rejuvenated delivering his intoxicating signature mix of blues and soul. Lest there be any doubt, the Trenchard-Harmon pairing is once again a winner.
- Jim Hynes