Superharps is almost an understatement when you're talking about James Cotton, Billy Branch, Charlie Musselwhite, and Sugar Ray Norcia,. The presence of such revered masters on this 11-track recording provides a world of insight into what blues harp has been about since the 1950s.
One of the last surviving links to the glory days of Chicago blues, harp legend James Cotton still commands a huge following because of his exuberant performances and exciting collaborations. From his childhood apprenticeship with harp ace Sonny Boy Williamson to the freewheeling gigs he played with Howlin' Wolf, Cotton's fame as a showman and player has never stopped growing. In 1955, Muddy Waters invited him to join his band, and he went on to spend twelve years touring and recording with the man who would become his mentor. Cotton has also worked with rockers Steve Miller, Johnny Winter, Elvin Bishop, and others.
Chicago blues great Billy Branch's harmonica playing is known for its added jazz and R&B touches. Born near the Windy City, Branch grew up in Los Angeles, then moved back to go to school. He first made a name for himself in Willie Dixon's band and later blew harp for the great, unsung Jimmy Walker. Deeply committed to shaping the future, Branch started a "Blues in the Schools" program for children in Chicago.
A skillful instrumentalist, Charlie Musselwhite made his mark leading bands in Chicago and San Francisco. He first learned the blues playing behind the likes of Robert Nighthawk and Homesick James. His debut LP, Stand Back! Here Comes Charlie Musselwhite's Southside Band, remains a standard on underground radio, while his critically acclaimed Continental Drifter and a busy touring schedule promise to further broaden his influence and appeal.
Fresh from a five-year stint as lead singer and harpist for Roomful of Blues, Sugar Ray Norcia is as respected for his vocal proficiency as he is for his harmonica mastery. He was also frontman for the venerable East Coast-based Sugar Ray & the Bluetones (which featured Kid Bangham, Ronnie Earl, Anthony Geraci, and Mudcat Ward).
Superharps separates itself from the usual pack of blues releases by its bold playing and high quality production. Listen to the powerful "I Put My Baby Out" or "Blues, Why Do You Worry Me?" or Cotton's soulful reading of "The Hucklebuck." These are the sounds of master players in top form.