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SoCal blues heaven

Blow, Fat Daddy, Blow!
Blow, Fat Daddy, Blow!
By Harmonica Fats and Bernie Pearl

Bee Bump Records: 1996

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This review first appeared in the May; 31, 1996 issue of the North County Times.

Southern California blues stalwart Harmonica Fats (Harvey Blackston) and Bernie Pearl have made their third release their second all-acoustic set – good news, since their empathy really needs the intimacy of an acoustic setting to fully express itself.

Fats' full-tilt harmonica lends the duo much of its rich character; he plays like HOwlin' Wolf in his prime (let's just say you wouldn't want to be downwind if you've an aversion to saliva). As a vocalist, Fats is straight from the old school – you can hear traces of Lightnin' Hopkins and Sonny Terry in his world-weary tales of unfaithful women and broken dreams.

Pearl's guitar playing continues to improve; he eschews the superficiality of fretboard fireworks in favor of emotion and depth. He also seems to possess the good sense to recognize that Fats is the star, and uses his guitar sparingly to create a tasteful frame within which Fats can best shine.

The songwriting, though, is what really sets this outing above earlier albums. There are at least three bona fide new entries to the blues canon writen by Fats and Pearl: "She's Way Out of My Class," "You Got Your Mind In the Gutter" and "I Get So Tired." And the title track ought to become their new theme song, if bands still have theme songs.

This is far and away their best recording yet, as good as anything any of the larger labels are putting out in blues.