Wayback Machine Reviews and Quotes
1. Flim Flam (3:33)
2. Hello Stranger (3:38)
3. So Much Trouble (3:32)
4. Cut That Out (4:06)
5. Road Dog (4:29)
6. Play with Your Poodle (3:15)
7. Breathtaking Blues (3:17)
8. Crazy About You (3:51)
9. Pepper Mama (4:58)
10. Gillum's Windy Blues (3:21)
11. Rag Mama Rag (3:50)
12. Good Gal (3:19)
13. Reefer Head Woman (2:56)
14. Five Long Years (4:10)
15. Say You Will (2:43)
16. Mean Old Frisco (3:15)
by Dan Stevens
I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Wayback Machine, from Mark Hummel and it old school Chicago style blues. Opening with Flim Flam, a cool blues number with a great bass line courtesy of R.W Grigsby, with Mark Hummel on harmonica and lead vocal, backed by Rusty Zinn on guitar, Aaron Hammerman on piano and some great percussion by Dave Eagle. Super opener. A real nice Chicago flavored shuffle, Cut That out really provides a nice platform for Hummel on harmonica and Billy Flynn shows his chops on guitar, also joined by Kid Andersen. Hummel original, Road Dog is a super harmonica piece with eccentric percussion by Eagle giving it a real primitive feel. One of my favorites on the release is Breathtaking Blues, a cool, harmonica lead instrumental with a nicely executed piano solo by Hammerman and Eagle's zany percussion. Very cool. Another favorite is Gillum's Crazy About You with a really cool pace, with barrelhouse, rat a tat percussion and Hummel's personal touch on vocal and harmonica. Very nice. Slow blues, Pepper Mama has really nice framework for interwoven harmonica, piano, vocal and guitar by Flynn, Hammerman and Hummel. Hammerman takes the mic on Rag Mama Rag with it's authentic blues flavor and it's loose instrumental jam. Joe Beard joins on Five Long Years adding excellent vocal and guitar to this Boyd classic. With Hummel's solid harp work, this is a strong 1st generation style blues track. Another early style track is Say You Will also featuring the guitar and vocal work of Beard is up next and hits it right down the pipe. If you love delta blues, you will love this track! Wrapping the release is country style blues Mean Old Frisco, featuring Beard on vocal and guitar but with Andersen on bass and Hummel on harmonica giving it a more current and polished feel. This is a really enjoyable release with a lot of effort to inventiveness on originality. Very nice.
by Duane Verh
On Mark Hummel’s excellent 2018 all-instrumental release Harpbreaker the Grammy-nominated blues harp-meister displayed his firm grasp of a number of styles and genres. Alternating here in the company of the West Coast blues duo The Deep Basement Shakers and Mississippi blues guitarist Joe Beard, Mr. Hummel plants his play firmly in vintage blues ground, paying tribute to the 30’s and 40’s sounds from which the classic postwar Chicago blues era would spawn. The tracks with the DBS are good-timey in nature, Mr. H’s spirited play punctuated by the precocious play of percussionist Dave Eagle. Solid takes from this lineup include Robert Nighthawk’s “Pepper Mama”, Sonny Boy (John Lee) Williamson’s “Cut That Out” and the minor-keyed instrumental “Breathtaking Blues”. The final three tracks, featuring Mr. Beard on vocals, are of a more intense character, particularly Hummel’s composition “Say You Will”.
by Ron Wynn
Great Blues Harmonica Player Issues New Release
Harmonica ace Mark Hummel has long been blending vintage and contemporary influences in his writing and playing, perfecting for decades a style that manages to balance modern concerns with the classic ethos and sensibility of the classic blues from the ‘30s and ‘40s that Hummel admires. That’s definitely the case on his latest LP “Wayback Machine” (Electro-Fi) that’s being released this week.
Hummel is joined on this stirring session by guitarist Billy Flynn, Mississippi blues star Joe Beard and the West Coast combo The Deep Basement Shakers. It was recorded by Chris Kid Andersen at Greaseland Studios in San Jose, California.
Hummel’s swooping, energetic style reflects the influence of the blues harmonica greats he listened to or worked with after relocating from New Haven, Ct. to Los Angeles. James Cotton, Brownie McGhee and Charlie Musselwhite were among those he’s played with, though he also cites the giants Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson along with the great bandleader, guitarist and vocalist Muddy Waters. He’s been leading a band since the mid-80s, and has won two Blues Music Awards and been nominated for a Grammy.
Hummel’s also become well known in the blues world for his annual “Blues Harmonica Blowout.” It began in Berkeley back in 1991 as a single event, but has evolved into a harmonica summit that attracts both veterans and emerging artists to the West Coast annually. It not only attracts harmonica greats but outstanding guitarists as well.
Among those who’ve appeared at past Blowouts are Huey Lewis, John Mayall, James Cotton, Charlie Musselwhite, Elvin Bishop, Snooky Pryor, Carey Bell, John Hammond, Billy Boy Arnold, Magic Dick, Lee Oskar, Paul DeLay, Curtis Salgado, Rick Estrin, Rod Piazza, Norton Buffalo, Billy Branch, James Harman, Jr. Watson, and Sam Myers. The upcoming Blowout will be the 29th in the series, and a prime event will be the “Superstars of Blues Rock Harmonica.” Hummel will be joining by Magic Dick, Lee Oskar, and Jerry Portnoy, with special guest Duke Robillard. .
Hummel’s definitely anticipating that “Wayback Machine” will prove the latest addition to an impressive legacy.
by John Valenteyn
Toronto Blues Society
Harmonica ace Mark Hummel sets the wayback machine to Chicago in the 1940’s to re-introduce us to the “Bluebird Beat”, the sound that producer Lester Melrose developed that was hugely popular at the time. There are a couple of exceptions to the program but for those Bluebird songs, he has assembled a downhome band featuring The Deep Basement Shakers: Aaron Hammerman on piano and Dave Eagle on washboard/percussion. Engineer Chris “Kid” Andersen plays bass throughout and Billy Flynn, Chicago’s repository of traditional blues adds tasteful guitar on most. Hummel has chosen some less well-known titles but John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson, Tampa Red, Jazz Gillum and Robert Nighthawk are all represented with excellent performances. The only quibble is that Eagle’s washboard/percussion is sometimes too prominent, it was only on Jazz Gillum’s work, himself a washboard player, that it was so prominent. But this is a small quibble when the playing is of such a high level. Highlights include SBW’s “Cut That Out”, Nighthawk’s “Pepper Mama” and Tampa Red’s “Play with Your Poodle” perhaps better-known today as a staple of Marcia Ball’s live show. Generously, Hummel gives Hammerman the vocal on “Rag Mama Rag” and this group does a new song by Hummel, “Road Hog”, in which he bemoans his constant touring. There are two additions to the album that fall outside the wayback machine: the opening “Flim Flam (Man)” is an unflattering portrait of President Trump by bassist R.W. Grigsby. Hummel’s band here includes Rusty Zinn on guitar and outlier though it may be, it’s a fine album opener. The other exception is more substantial. Hummel wanted to feature Joe Beard, the unheralded bluesman based in Rochester NY and the final three tracks are deep country acoustic blues of the highest order. Beard sings and plays Eddie Boyd’s “Five Long Years” with Hummel on harmonica. “Say You Will” may be a recent composition by Hummel but Beard’s solo performance is gorgeous. Arthur Crudup’s “Mean Old Frisco” rounds out an all-too-brief reminder that such a prominent bluesman is but a short drive from Toronto. Wayback Machine will be released on January 17 and www.markhummel.com shows only California dates so far.
Mark Hummel’s latest release is called Wayback Machine (Electro-Fi Records) for a good reason. The harmonica ace takes listeners way back beyond the heyday of Chicago blues (circa 1950’s Chess/VeeJay Records) to the preceding era of 30’s/40’s Windy City blues, focusing on the Bluebird/RCA Victor label. That storied label recorded artists like Tampa Red, Big Bill Broonzy, Sonny Boy (John Lee) Williamson, Robert Nighthawk, Memphis Slim, and many others who paved the way for many of the later Chess recording artists.
Hummel (harmonica/lead vocals) is joined by the Deep Basement Shakers (Aaron Hammerman – piano/vocals and Dave Eagle – washboard/percussion) and guests R.W. Grigsby (bass), Kid Andersen (bass), Alex Pettersen (drums) and guitarist Joe Beard, Billy Flynn, and Rusty Zinn. The sixteen-song set list is made up of thirteen tracks from the aforementioned era, plus three originals, two by Hummel (the autobiographical “Road Dog” and “Say You Will,” a solo acoustic piece sung by Beard) and one by Grigsby (the topical “Flim Flam,” which refers to Billy Boy Arnold’s “I Wish You Would”).
The covers include three tunes, from John Lee Williamson (“Cut That Out,” “Good Gal,” and “Reefer Head Woman”), two songs from Tampa Red (“So Much Trouble,” “Play With Your Poodle”), two songs from Jazz Gillum (“Crazy About You” and “Gillum’s Windy City Blues”), along with songs from Baby Boy Warren (“Hello Stranger”), Nighthawk (“Pepper Mama”), Blind Boy Fuller (“Rag Mama Rag,” with vocal from Hammerman), and Rhythm Willie (“Breathtaking Blues”). Beard adds his guitar and vocal to the aforementioned “Say You Will,” plus Eddie Boyd’s “Five Long Years” and Big Boy Crudup’s “Mean Old Frisco.”
Hummel and company take these old, dusty blues classics and put a fresh coat of paint on them with their presentation, all the while managing to maintain that old traditional quality as well. Flynn, Zinn, and Beard provide impeccable guitar work in accompaniment and Beard’s vocal performances are excellent as well.
Wayback Machine is required listening for fans of early Chicago blues, thanks to fine performances from Mark Hummel, the Deep Basement Shakers, and friends.
by Greg Johnson
Harmonica ace Mark Hummel jumps into his “Wayback Machine” to take us on a trip back to the sounds of Bluebird Records, the noted blues label who produced some of the most acclaimed recordings of post-war Chicago of the 1930-40s. Tracks originally recorded by the likes of Tampa Red, Sonny Boy Williamson, Arthur Crudup, Jazz Gillum, Eddie Boyd, and Robert Nighthawk, sit alongside two of Hummel’s own compositions and one from bassist RW Grigsby. All run together nicely without any disruption in flow between the older and the new.
The musicianship on the album is bar none outstanding. Recorded at Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studios in San Jose, you know right away that the tracks featured are going to be brought to their utmost excellence with top shelf artists. Aside from Hummel blowing terrific harp, Grigsby providing bass on a number and Andersen on bass, Billy Flynn and Rusty Zinn provide guitar work, and Alex Petersen on drums The Deep Basement Shakers, pianist Aaron Hammerman and Dave Eagle on percussion perform on thirteen of the selections, and guitarist/vocalist Joe Beard appears on two.
Mark Hummel has put together yet another recording of merit. No surprise, he has been doing just that for more than three decades now and his output keeps gaining more momentum every time out. Wayback Machine brings focus on some of the brightest stars of the blues past, and puts them right back in front of us again where they belong always.
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.
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 Chris Spector
Wayback Machine: Hummel really reaches back here--the blues harp ace celebrates the sound and fury of Bluebird Records as it was documenting the pre-war Chicago scene before Muddy hit town and took it electric. Rounding up a bunch of like minded white boys with the blues, a mighty good time is had by all as they really tear it up old school style---all the way down to making it sound like the tape recorder was stationed across the street from the session. What a way to deliver a gasser.