Mark Hummel,
Blowin' My Horn
(Electro-Fi, 2004)

There's only so much that you can do with a blues harp, compared to a guitar or saxophone. Mark Hummel shows its range, however, in this 76-minute live CD. Hummel brings out a wide variety of tones from his harps, with warbles, wah-wahs and overblowing.

He has a solid backup band in the Blues Survivors: Charles Wheal on guitar, Steve Wolf on bass and Marty Dodson on drums, with Mel Brown joining them on keyboards.

Thankfully, Hummel avoids blues chestnuts with a mix of original tracks, obscurities like Frank Frost's "My Back Scratcher," "Before the Beginning" by former Fleetwood Mac member Peter Green, and even Buddy Rich's "Rotten Kid." The only familiar song of the 13 is "Willie & the Hand Jive."

"100 Years" lets Hummel explore the harp's difficult, squeaky upper range. "What You Do" has him emulating the "wah-wah" style of Sonny Boy Williamson II. "The Creeper" is a harp-based tune in which Hummel showboats his fast playing.

Hummel gives his band the spotlight at various points. "Willie & the Hand Jive" features Dodson's energetic drum work, while "Rotten Kid" lets Wheal show some melodic swing riffs.

The only stumbling point might be Hummel's lyrics on "Gotta Make a Change" -- "They give it to the rich and take it from the poor ... and start a budget breakin' war." That is true enough, but unfortunately these sentiments are too obvious to draw attention.

As with many blues artists, Hummel does not cover new ground on this CD. But if you are a blues fan, you can't help but be captured right on the first cut, when Hummel sings "I feel so good/feel so fine/Got nothin but rockin' on my mind" on Roy Brown's "Rockin' All the Time."

by Dave Howell
21 January 2006

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