Thursday, July 26, 2012

Just a Little Bit More reviewed by Mark Thompson

Just a Little Bit More
Gary Primich with Omar Dykes
Old Pal Records
Disc 1 – 12 tracks/45:51
Disc 2 – 11 tracks/42:43

This release is designed to rekindle the musical legacy of one of my favorite blues harp players. Gary Primich followed a familiar career arc – born in Chicago, developed a love for blues music and hung out in the clubs, learning how to play the harmonica by studying the masters like James Cotton and Billy Boy Arnold. After graduating college, Primich grew tired of the Chicago scene and relocated to Austin, TX where he hung out with musicians who shared his passion for authentic blues. He released nine recordings under his name, marking his development as a harp player, band leader and especially as a singer. But Primich also had demons to deal with. In September of 2007, he died of an accidental overdose as he struggled to handle the effects depression.

His family has put together this tribute to honor his memory. The two discs feature cuts from five different Primich titles. And things start jumping right away as Primich gives you a taste of his abilities on the instrumental “Satellite Rock”. Next up is a Primich original, “Sweet Fine Angel”, that clearly illuminates his understanding of the Chicago blues style. The heat gets turned up on “Boogie Woogie Baby”, complete with a horn section and an incendiary guitar solo from Shorty Lenoir. “House Rockin' Party” is a dynamic shuffle with the leader's understated vocal fitting perfectly. Primich's phrasing on “School of Hard Knocks” bears a resemblance to Mose Allison's vocal style but his brief harp solo packs a wallop.

Seven tracks were pulled from various collaborations Primich did with guitarist Omar Dykes. They do a fine cover of  “Caress Me Baby”, with Primich showing his mastery of the upper register Jimmy Reed harp style. “Midnight Ramblin' Man” sports a familiar boogie riff, Dyke's gruff voice and some more splendid harp from Primich.  Highlights from the second disc include a rousing :Dangerous Man” with Primich getting a fat tone on his harp. They deliver a scorching version of “One Room Country Shack” that allows the leader to demonstrate his mastery on the chromatic harp. For “Down in Mississippi”, it is Dykes on acoustic guitar and Primich blowing some sweet country blues.

Several instrumentals show another facet of Primich's musical universe. He plays inventive lines on the swinging take of the jazz standard “Indiana” while Duke Ellington's “Caravan” has Rob Stupka providing the big beat that Primich's harp dances around. But he is really in his element on the title track of one his releases, “Mr Freeze”, steadily building his solo as he moves up and down on his harp until he eases his way back to the melody to finish things off.

Tracks like “Jenny Brown”  and “Put the Hammer Down” on the second disc show the maturity of Primich's vocal skills later in his career. Another standout performance can be found on “Pray for a Cloudy Day” with the Primich promising to play it cool, live right and die old.

If you have never had the chance to listen to Gary Primich while he still walked this earth, this release is a golden opportunity to rectify that deficiency in your musical education. I guarantee that you will find many enjoyable moments on these two discs while quickly learning that Gary Primich was one bad-ass harmonica player.

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