By Ron Wynn
Harmonica ace Mark Hummel has long been blending vintage and contemporary influences in his writing and playing, perfecting for decades a style that manages to balance modern concerns with the classic ethos and sensibility of the classic blues from the ‘30s and ‘40s that Hummel admires. That’s definitely the case on his latest LP “Wayback Machine” (Electro-Fi) that’s being released this week.
Hummel is joined on this stirring session by guitarist Billy Flynn, Mississippi blues star Joe Beard and the West Coast combo The Deep Basement Shakers. It was recorded by Chris Kid Andersen at Greaseland Studios in San Jose, California.
Hummel’s swooping, energetic style reflects the influence of the blues harmonica greats he listened to or worked with after relocating from New Haven, Ct. to Los Angeles. James Cotton, Brownie McGhee and Charlie Musselwhite were among those he’s played with, though he also cites the giants Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson along with the great bandleader, guitarist and vocalist Muddy Waters. He’s been leading a band since the mid-80s, and has won two Blues Music Awards and been nominated for a Grammy.
Hummel’s also become well known in the blues world for his annual “Blues Harmonica Blowout.” It began in Berkeley back in 1991 as a single event, but has evolved into a harmonica summit that attracts both veterans and emerging artists to the West Coast annually. It not only attracts harmonica greats but outstanding guitarists as well.
Among those who’ve appeared at past Blowouts are Huey Lewis, John Mayall, James Cotton, Charlie Musselwhite, Elvin Bishop, Snooky Pryor, Carey Bell, John Hammond, Billy Boy Arnold, Magic Dick, Lee Oskar, Paul DeLay, Curtis Salgado, Rick Estrin, Rod Piazza, Norton Buffalo, Billy Branch, James Harman, Jr. Watson, and Sam Myers. The upcoming Blowout will be the 29th in the series, and a prime event will be the “Superstars of Blues Rock Harmonica.” Hummel will be joining by Magic Dick, Lee Oskar, and Jerry Portnoy, with special guest Duke Robillard. .
Hummel’s definitely anticipating that “Wayback Machine” will prove the latest addition to an impressive legacy.