Archive for gene taylor

James Harman needs our help. (Icepick’s Story 2021)

Posted in related music with tags , , , , , , , on January 4, 2021 by J.J.

In a parallel universe, James Harman is a superstar.

An in-demand artiste who plays command performances for kings and queens. A poet laureate whose lyrics are studied in college courses. A giving mentor and bandleader whose roots have grown the fruits of generations of musicians. A vocalist whose records stop all diner conversation when the needle hits his latest song.

But in this here-and-now, James Harman — blues raconteur extraordinaire — is 74, without the means to earn a living, and beginning chemotherapy for Stage 4 cancer.

Harman is not a household name — unless your household is real hip. Those who know, know.

To the true believers of “The Red Devils, Lester Butler and California’s (and beyond’s) blues, rock and roots music,” James Harman is the Godfather.

Some of this is by talent, and some of it is by proximity. Harman is one of those threads of connective cool from his native Alabama, to the post-Woodstock Canned Heat California scene, to Big Joe Turner, Hollywood Fats, MTV, ZZ Top and a touring schedule in the 1990s that rivaled any act on the planet (“She wrapped my sandwich, boy, in an old road map”).

Harman has always surrounded himself with whipcrack musicians, and entire James Harman Band lineups have gone on to form or evolve into other killer bands, from The Blasters (Phil Alvin and Bill Bateman were early bandmates, as was Gene Taylor), to The Fabulous Thunderbirds (whose early ‘90s incarnation was a literal James Harman Band with Kim Wilson) to Lester Butler’s various 13s.

His most well-known ensemble was the early 1980s version of the James Harman Band … Those Dangerous Gentlemens: Hollywood Fats, Kid Ramos, Willie J. Campbell and the incomparable Stephen Hodges on drums (you might know Hodges from the Tom Waits band). Yes, Hollywood Fats and Kid Ramos in one lineup, under the direction of one James Harman.

Recommended: Extra Napkins, Strictly Live … in ’85!, Thank You Baby, Those Dangerous Gentlemens

James Harman, The Blasters, X, The (original) Red Devils, Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs, Canned Heat, Dwight Yoakam, Tom Waits, Los Lobos and many others shared common DNA, even if each leaned on nurture more than nature (punk rockabilly, experimental roots … or “American music”).

Harman would tell you (and has told me and my pals) that he is not a harmonica player. He is a singer and a songwriter who uses the harmonica when needed to tell his stories. And those stories are clever and compact in a way that demonstrates the craft and care he puts into his art. His musical ethos align more closely with artists and outsiders such as Waits and Los Lobos than the average “Tuesday bluesday” crowd — even though he gets the job done down behind that city dump, presiding over a real blues party.

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11 favorite moments on ‘King King’

Posted in red devils with tags , on December 13, 2020 by J.J.

Having lived with “King King” for the last 28 years, I believe I know this record better than any other I’ve heard. It gets at least one annual “I’m obsessed with this” turn in the car or earbuds, not to mention all of the other times it crops up on various playlists.

We all have our favorite songs from “King King,” but let’s get really specific. What are your favorite moments from The Red Devils’ album — those little details that make this record one of our favorites? Not necessarily musical moments, but all the elements that add up to a one-of-a-kind record.

Fortunately, “King King” is chock full of those moments. Here are some of my favorites (today):

Automatic (0:00): Yes, the very beginning of the record. The tuning check, the short snare roll … what other album begins like that? It’s a last-ammo inventory before Lester Butler’s harp lick, right in the pocket. Besides, how many cover versions of “Automatic” have you heard that start with this same (unnecessary) preamble?

She’s Dangerous (0:36): Let’s give a shoutout to piano man Gene Taylor, who is buried deep in the mix on “King King.” “Dangerous” is one of the key tracks where Taylor’s piano is audible and essential. His triplets elevate “Dangerous” from blooz-rock to the blues. You take it for granted, but you would miss it if it weren’t there. (And check that piano at 2:33, too, leading into Paul Size’s deep “Still A Fool” riff.)

Read more after the jump …

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The Coral’s James Skelly on ‘King King’

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , , , on December 26, 2010 by J.J.

The January 2011 edition of Mojo magazine has a Red Devils mention, in the annual “The Best Thing I’ve Heard All Year” section.

James Skelly, singer and guitarist from the psych-folk band The Coral, describes his newfound love for “King King”:

John Leckie played me The Red Devils’ “King King” album when we were in the studio and I haven’t stopped playing it since. It’s from 1992 and was recorded live in Hollywood’s King King club where the group had a Monday night residency and Rick Rubin produced it, and it’s the best thing he’s ever done and it’s the best live album I’ve ever heard. It’s like early Fleetwood Mac crossed with Robert Johnson and Nirvana and they have such an aggressive sound, it goes down so hot to the tape, which really suits them. The singer, Lester Butler, he died in 1998 from an overdose but he’s one of the best harmonica players of all time.

If that’s not enough, check out the four-star review for ex-Blaster Gene Taylor’s disc “Let Me Ride In Your Automobile” on page 101.

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