Proudly Presents East Bay Blues Vaults 1976 - 1988
Blues Music Magazine
By Joseph Jordan
Mark Hummel, one of the world’s most accomplished harmonica players and singers, has released an album filled with superlative Blues treasures in his & others’ wondrous and rare retrospective release, East Bay Blues Vaults 1976-1988.
During the remarkable heyday of its significant days (and nights) as a nationally-known Blues heaven, the Bay Area’s East Bay Blues (Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, et al.) shone more than brightly.
The Grammy-nominated Hummel is a youngblood here, categorically learning his chops, and extending his exuberant & ever-inventive talent behind some of the most noteworthy singers and players on the West Coast, if not national scene. He plays harp on all but a few tracks and is always powerful yet sympathetic to the lead singer and musicians… never over-blowing or over-reaching.
The singers and players on these recordings welcomed Hummel throughout the 70s and 80s, and their largesse and talent-spotting wisdom has paid off throughout the almost half-decade since for fans of Hummel’s around the world. Primarily featuring Bay Area musicians, besides Hummel, the recording features several prominent names… Brownie McGhee, Francis Clay, J.J. Malone, Gary Smith and Cool Papa to name just a very few.
Encompassing 22-tracks over a generous 78-minutes worth of rare Blues brilliance, “Vaults” will command attention among new and lucky listeners, and those fortunate enough to have been on the scene as it was generated. Taken from original tapes and almost ancient 45s, musical greatness is heard throughout. Most importantly, the glory is in the music generated by a who’s who of tough, urban and gritty West Coast Blues luminaries.
Ron Thompson is a budding revelation in “Close Call” as his guitar trades off with Jr. Watson’s, both thoroughly complimented with memorable keyboard work by Little Willie Littlefield. Thompson’s version of Rudy Toomb’s “I’m Shakin’” is as infectious as anything you’ll hear on the disc, or anywhere else. His self-penned “Freight Train” is so powerful, it should be a standard and features his biting, snarling slide work.
And you’ll know how much a musical compatriot Mississippi Johnny Water’s is to Muddy once you hear his Delta drawl on the upbeat, “You Can Look For Me.” Guitarist/vocalist Sonny Rhodes checks in with three vital tracks, of which “Take The Bitter With The Sweet” features standout playing by guitarist Jr. Watson and will remind some of Chicago Blues of the mid-to-late 50s.
These are but a glorious few among a disc of basic, big-city Blues brilliance.
The ubiquitous Kid Andersen mastered the recording at his Greaseland Studios in San Jose and CD producer Hummel wrote the extensive and extremely informative liners and track credits.
“Vaults” features not only several remarkable historical recordings, it’s a testament to the power of the East Bay scene when Blues was king.