Mark Hummel's Blues Harmonica Blowout

It could be a prelude to a punch line. How many harmonica players does it take to create a spectacular blues revue? When you're talking world-class musicians like Mark Hummel, Magic Dick of the J. Geils Band, and blues greats Watermelon Slim and R.J. Mischo, the reality is that any one of them alone would do. But taken en masse, it makes for one mighty blowout, which, in fact, it is... specifically Mark Hummel's Blues Harmonica Blowout, featuring a rotating lineup of the harp's hierarchy.

As the marquee implies, Hummel himself is the ringmaster of this traveling extravaganza, which he originated in 1991, recruiting some of the most revered blues harpists along the way. Reared on the sounds of such legendary practitioners as Little Walter, James Cotton, and Sonny Boy Williamson, he's been applying his own devotion to the craft since the early '70s, when he moved to Berkeley, California, and formed his first band. Since then, he's mingled with the likes of Charlie Musselwhite, Brownie McGhee, Lowell Fulsom, and Sue Foley, maintaining an ongoing association with his touring band, the Blues Survivors, in the interim.

For the past two decades, Hummel's Blues Harmonica Blowout has become a much-anticipated annual event, something akin to an old-school version of Ozfest or Lollapalooza in the guise of a boogie bash. (It's been best captured on last year's live two-disc set, Still Here and Gone, 1993-2007.) Consider it ideal entertainment for diehard blues devotees and anyone else who fancies a cool groove, a rousing raveup, or simply the sound of a blustery wind.


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