Zac Harmon | 08.23.07

zacharmon-by-jt-lotozowebA twenty-five year veteran of the recording industry and Grammy-winning producer, Harmon's command of his material was spot-on. He worked the audience with charisma and style.  

 

 

 

 

 

BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups, St. Louis

A relative newbie to the national blues scene, Zac Harmon's St. Louis debut proved that this half-centurion can stand his ground in this city (and this venue) so rich in the blues tradition. It's hard to believe that a man capable of producing such high intensity on stage has been fronting his own professional blues band for less than four years and even harder to believe that two of the four touring band members have joined the project in just the last six months.

In his hometown of Jackson, Miss., Harmon grew up influenced by The Farish Street tradition (Jackson's equivalent to Beale Street), a Deep South estuary where the Delta meets the city, that has produced such luminaries as Little Milton, Sam Meyers and Elmore James.  His accolades are impressive, having already logged wins in the International Blues Challenge and the Blues Music (WC Handy) Awards, and received recognition as XM Radio's New Blues Player of the Year 2005.

On this steamy Thursday night in St. Louis, Cardinals fans were already singing the blues as they shuffled into newly-remodelled BB's after the Cards took a severe beating by the Florida Marlins (11-3). Then Harmon and his band quite literally TOOK the stage and immediately lifted everyone's spirits. An imposing figure at six foot plus, Harmon is backed by muscle-bound bassist, who goes only by the name Buthel and 90's USC football standout Lavell Jones on drums, in addition to veteran Bernard Jenkins on guitar.

A twenty-five year veteran of the recording industry and Grammy-winning producer, Harmon's command of his material was spot-on. He worked the audience with charisma and style. Opening with the growling and seductive original "Sugarman," he let everybody know that he was here to make a lasting impression. The first set roared by with samplings from his two blues releases, Live at Babe and Ricky's Inn and The Blues According to Zachariah, as well as some tastefully selected covers such as the classic "King Bee" (Muddy Waters) and a hard-driving "One Way Out" (Allman Bros. Band).

Ater a short break spent working the crowd and signing CDs for new fans, Harmon opened the second set with a spiritually reverent original, "Mighty High." He revealed his gospel upbringing and took us to church in the deep south before getting dirty by showing off his slide guitar skills for a couple of numbers.  A powerfully delivered "I'm a Man" (Muddy Waters) was followed by Harmon's bawdy "Full-Figured Woman" by which point better than half the women in the place were blushing.  A gut-bucket rendition of Willy Dixon's "Spoonfull" led to another signature original, "Who's Knockin'," served cabaret-style as Harmon's comfort with both signing and storytelling became readily apparent.  Tipping his hat to harp master Junior Wells, Harmon closed the set with the classic "Messin with the Kid" before exiting stage left for a well-deserved ovation and a cold beer.

Something tells me Harmon and his band will soon become regulars in the St Louis blues scene. If you love high energy, well polished blues or just admire fantastic musicianship, I recommend you catch ‘em when they come back around. | Amy Burger

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