Roadhouse Album Review: Big Harp George swings the chromatic harp on “Cut My Spirit Loose”

Big Harp George — “Cut My Spirit Loose” — Blues Mountain Records

The San Francisco Bay Area’s Big Harp George (Bisharat) makes his chromatic harmonica sound like he belongs in a big band full of swinging jazz and blues — which of course, he does. And on his latest album, “Cut My Spirit Loose,” he is.

The band is an impressive group, including guitarist Kid Andersen, bassist Joe Kyle Jr., drummers June Core and Derrick D’Mar Martin, Chris Burns on keys, Jeff Lewis and Ed Morrison on trumpet, Michael Peloquin and Doug Rowan on sax, Mike Rinta on trombone and tuba, and Ben Torres on flute.

Add Lisa Leuchner Andersen, Lulu Bisharat, Loralee Christensen, and the Sons of the Soul Revivers (James Dwayne and Walter Morgan), and you’ve got a choir of backup singers.

That’s quite a list, but it’s worth mentioning in detail, since the music here romps easily behind Bisharat’s supersonic harp work and clever songwriting. Twelve sprightly Bisharat originals grace this session, along with a cover of the Lennon-McCartney song, “She’s a Woman.”

The album kicks off with a swinging “It’s Tuesday,” an ode to the memories of Covid lockdowns; “Pile Driving Sam” is a bouncy little ditty that doubles down on double-entendre; “Give Me The Dark” argues that the night time is indeed the right time with a bluesy little tune that made me feel like I could do a soft-shoe routine; “Bustin’ Out” is a New Orleans-themed instrumental that stretches out the harp work; “She’s a Woman” gets remade with Latinesque leanings; “My Dog Is Better Than You” unleashes more Bisharat wit, begging for more canine values in a cruel human world.

“Jump Abu Lula!” is another canine tribute to his dog that’s a rollicking jump blues instrumental (except for a chorus that periodically chants the title); “Prince Of Downward Mobility” exclaims a reverse success story; “Ranty Town,” with a fine harp intro, expresses rhythmic disdain for rants of conspiracy; “Behind The Eight Ball” is a slow and bluesy examination of a bluesman’s troubles; “Take A Knee” is a back-porch-flavored down home blues with a country feel tackling that controversial NFL issue with the Soul Revivers on the gospel-like call and response; a gorgeous little instrumental, “Sunrise Stroll,” features the melodic virtues of the chromatic harp; “Captain Jack” closes with the dirge-like account of the fate of Kintpuash, Captain Jack, the chief of the indigenous Modoc people.

“Cut My Spirit Loose” is a fine effort by Big Harp George and his multi-talented backers, smartly pulling together his skills as a singer, songwriter and chromatic harp master for this swinging session.

Here’s a great interview with George from the December, 2020, edition of Blues Blast Magazine.

Here’s “It’s Tuesday,” from “Cut My Spirit Loose”:

Tracks & Credits:

01. It’s Tuesday
02. Pile Driving Sam
03. Give Me the Dark
04. Bustin’ Out
05. She’s a Woman
06. My Dog Is Better Than You
07. Jump Abu Lula!
08. Prince of Downward Mobility
09. Rantytown
10. Behind the Eight Ball
11. Take a Knee
12. Sunrise Stroll
13. Captain Jack

Big Harp George: vocals, harmonics
June Core: drums, percussion
Derrick D’Mar Martin: drums, percussion
Joe Kyle, Jr.: bass
Jeff Lewis: trumpet
Ed Morrison: trumpet
Michael Peloquin: tenor and baritone sax
Mike Rinta: trombone, tuba
Doug Rowan: baritone sax
Ben Torres: flute
Lisa Leuchner Andersen, Lulu Bisharat, Loralee Christensen, Sons of the Soul Revivers (James Dwayne and Walter Morgan): backing vocals

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