“Mark Hummel is one of the very top notch guys on the Blues Harmonica scene today.
He’s a great traditional player”
- Billy Boy Arnold
Grammy Award Nominee and Winner of two Blues Music Awards, Mark Hummel started playing harmonica in 1970 and is considered one of the premier blues harmonica players of his generation. Thanks to over thirty recordings since 1985, including the Grammy nominated 2013 release Blind Pig recording Remembering Little Walter (part of the Blues Harmonica Blowout CD series). Mark Hummel's Blues Harmonica Blowout™ started in 1991 and have featured every major legend (Mayall, Musselwhite, Cotton, etc.) on blues harp as well as almost every player of note on the instrument - a who's who of players. Read Full Bio
Mark Hummel Releases Wayback Machine
WAYBACK MACHINE (Electro-Fi 3459)
Grammy nominated Harp Ace Mark Hummel is moving forward by looking backwards on his new Electro-Fi CD release WAYBACK MACHINE, and he’s picked a sweet spot in Blues history to explore, the glorious Bluebird Records sound of the 1930’s and 40’s. Joining Mark on the disc is Chicago first call guitarist Billy Flynn, the Red Hot West Coast Combo The Deep Basement Shakers, and Mississippi Bluesmaster Joe Beard.
The 16 Dynamic tracks on this CD were recorded by Chris "Kid" Andersen at Greaseland Studios in San Jose, CA.
No doubt WAYBACK MACHINE is destined to be one of the most talked about Traditional Blues releases of 2020!
The Reviews Are In - Wayback Machine
With each new recording many professional blues artists—especially those who have been in the game as long as NorCal East Bay fixture Mark Hummel—face the challenge of being innovative while also respecting tradition. Color too far outside the lines and it’s no longer blues (to some fans); adhere too closely to the past and it becomes an exercise in mimicry or nostalgia. It’s a difficult line to walk, but Hummel has excelled with each project.
On Wayback Machine the veteran bluesman and the Deep Basement Shakers (Aaron Hammerman on piano and Dave Eagle on percussion and washboard) mine the electric Chicago blues sound—but not the one you’re thinking of. Hummel and company have their sights set on the decades just before Chess Records made its mark, particularly during the heyday of RCA Victor’s Bluebird imprint and its stable of artists, many of whom are now considered icons: Big Bill Broonzy, John Lee Williamson, Washboard Sam, Arthur Crudup. Joining the trio are special guests that include guitarist Billy Flynn, Kid Andersen (who is on bass detail here), and most notably, Mississippi-born guitarist Joe Beard, who takes the lead on the album’s final three cuts.
Although its title and Hummel’s own comments in the liner notes suggest a release steeped in history more than it looks to the future, it’s a testament to the musicians involved that the album feels unmistakably fresh, particularly when compared to recent entries in Hummel’s discography. This outfit explores a different kind of sound.
The opener, Flim Flam, penned by R.W. Grigsby (bassist on loan from Hummel’s Golden State / Lone Star Revue), delivers a scathing critique of our current president (“sits around tweeting on his gold-plated throne / but one day, baby, he’ll be all alone”) couched in a groove that playfully references Billy Boy Arnold’s I Wish You Would. More familiar covers (Reefer Head Woman, Cut That Out) are expertly paired with hokum (Play with Your Poodle), a country rag (Rag Mama Rag), and an up-tempo Hummel original (Road Dog). Beard’s contributions feel more like bonus tracks but will nonetheless be welcomed by those who appreciate the credibility he brings as one of the genre’s elder statesmen, particularly on his moving rendition of Five Long Years.
This is quite the impressive outing for the Deep Basement Shakers, a trio who is only a few years into their initial run. Fans of early Chicago blues are going to really dig this one.
by John Kereiff
Authenticity is important in blues records and it’s unlikely you’ll find it in more abundance than here on Mark Hummel’s new disc. A generous mix of blues classics with some new tracks mixed in, this baby really takes you back home.
Hummel has picked a sweet spot in blues history to explore, the glorious Bluebirds Records sound of the 30’s and 40’s. Hummel on vocals and harp is joined by Chicago first call guitarist Billy Flynn, Mississippi Bluesmaster Joe Beard and West Coast duo The Deep Basement Shakers. Recorded at Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studios, Wayback Machine feels much like Maria Muldaur’s exploration of jug band blues with a natural sound and feel unburdened by production room trickery.
Wayback Machine, at first glance, appears overly generous at 16 tracks but once I listened all the way through I couldn’t wait to hear it again. Blues fans will know songs like Play With Your Poodle and Mean Old Frisco, and also appreciate that Mark didn’t screw around with the arrangements to ‘make them his own’. He and the various musicians that pop up throughout the disc play the songs exactly the way you would want to hear them… at least that’s how it is for me.
As a harp player Hummel has been featured on over 30 recordings since 1985 and is a master of what the instrument is capable of in the right hands, discovering blues harp and rock/blues while still in high school. Soon after getting into the hard blues by Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson and Little Walter, he began frequenting a club in LA where he saw Charlie Musselwhite, Brownie McGee & Sonny Terry and James Cotton, all of whom he would work with later on a regular basis. I mention that here only because you can feel and hear all of that in The Wayback Machine.
When it comes to harp-centric blues, especially in 2020, you’re not going to find any better than Mark Hummel’s The Wayback Machine… good luck trying.
by Bill Wilson
"Mark Hummel is one of the finest and most diverse Harmonica players in the world. Wayback Machine manages to capture the spirit of an age. One of the finest works I’ve heard all year”.
I nearly shelved this album from the first time I listened to it. I have become so disgusted and fearful of current political trends that when I heard Grigsby’s “Flim Flam”, it nearly went in the bin. The socially and politically charged tune, which actually sounds quite good in many respects, feels out of place in this collection. That said, I’m glad I opted to skip ahead to the second tune. From there, it was smooth sailing. Mark Hummel, who has been doing his musical thing since the early ‘70s, is one of the finest and most diverse harmonica players in the world. His knowledge of the history of harmonica music, paired with this ability to emulate the works of the early masters is the reason I rate his playing so highly. On his latest project he looks back to the 1930s & ‘40s and Bluebird Records, with artists like Tampa Red, John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson and Jazz Gillum. To capture the sound and feel of that era he called upon the talents of R.W. Grigsby & Kid Andersen (bass), Billy Flynn & Rusty Zinn (guitars), Alex Petersen (drums), The Deep Basement Shakers (Aaron Hammerman on piano & vocal and Dale Eagle on washboard & percussion) and Joe Beard (guitar & vocals). The resulting album manages to capture the spirit of an age that would lay the groundwork for what would ultimately become rock & roll. Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf and like-minded artists would electrify and “jazz up” tunes played by their predecessors…and what we would call rock ‘n’ roll was born. From the standpoint of harmonica players, this album pretty much jumps into the middle of a long story. I hope that Hummel jumps back into his Wayback Machine to give us yet another taste of the way it was.
by Sheryl and Don Crow
Mark Hummel is a Grammy-nominated harpblaster, singer, composer, and bandleader. He was born in New Haven, CT, but his family soon relocated to L. A. Growing up, he found a passion for blues harp, and has never looked back.
On each new album, Mark looks for a different, fresh angle, and “Wayback Machine” is no different. On this set of sixteen mixed originals and covers, Mark takes us back to the days of the “country blues” era of the Bluebird record label, doing everything in a stripped-down manner. Mark produced the set at Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studios in San Jose, and all these cuts have that vintage feel and sound.
Up first, Mark is on vocal on the cautionary, topical tale of “the chief Denier,” and three guesses as to whom “Flim Flam” is referring. This one has Aaron Hammerman on keys and Dave Eagle on percussion, better known as the Deep Basement Shakers. Mark has a lot of fun with “Cut That Out,” with fine guitar from Billy Flynn, “Play With Your Poodle,” and “Rag Mama Rag,” this one featuring Aaron on vocals.
Joe Beard, one of the last remaining true Mississippi bluesmen, and a great personal friend to Mark, is on vocals and guitar on the three acoustic cuts that close the set. First up is the pleading slow-blues read of “Five Long Years,” giving way to Mark’s original, “Say You Will,” which has a good ol’ Lightnin’ Hopkins feel. Closing the set, we all get a ride on that “Mean Old Frisco, and that lowdown Santa Fe!”
Mark Hummel’s vision to create a “country blues” album built around his harp and the excellent talents of the special guests who are accompanying him makes “Wayback Machine” a killer set of traditional blues with a cool contemporary twist! Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.