Zac Harmon,
From the Root
(NorthernBlues, 2009)

After a quarter-century working in the recording industry, Zac Harmon decided it was time to pursue his lifelong dream of making his own music.

A native Jackson, Mississippi, Harmon is a disciple of the Farish Street blues sound -- the source of many legendary musicians, including the great Elmore James. He honed his skills as a guitarist, organist and vocalist in church, expanded them as a guitarist with Z.Z. Hill and Sam Myers, among others, and then went to California where he worked as a studio musician, writer and producer.

Despite his success in these areas, the dream of recording his own music kept nagging. So in 2002 he recorded his first blues project, Live at Babe & Ricky's Inn. That was followed by The Blues According to Zacariah, which won the "Best New Blues Artist" in the inaugural XM Nation Awards in 2005. In 2006 the album earned him the Blues Music Award for "Best New Artist Debut," and later in the same year he was featured in Blues Revue magazine as one of 10 artists who "represent the future of the blues."

This gives some idea of the tenor of this musician.

Harmon's debut release with NorthernBlues, From the Root, is an eclectic mix combining elements of blues, soul, gospel and even a bit of reggae, and it continues the promise of those earlier accolades. The 14 tracks provide tradition stamped with individuality, a style all his own but defining its roots.

It's hard to select a favorite, and I won't try. Some cuts I especially like include the rocking "Hattie Mae" with harp backup by Jimmy Z, the smooth ballad "The Price of Loving You" featuring a delightful duet with the sultry Sueann Carwell, "Honey Bee," which is pure 1960s Memphis-style blues, and the funk and R&B "The Older Woman."

In addition to his own stellar guitar, Harmon has standout backup with B.R. Millon and Hugh Laxinetta, rhythm guitar; Romeo Brune and Greg Wright, acoustic guitar; Mark Jones, bass; Christopher Troy and Keith Hollis, organ/keyboard; Jimmy Z, harmonica; Ralph Forrest, Lavell Jones and Barry Chenault, drums; and Sueann Carwell and Daryl "Stogie" Walker, vocals.

review by
John R. Lindermuth

2 January 2010

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