Zac Harmon is happy - Long As I Got My Guitar

Zac Harmon is happy – Long As I Got My Guitar

Zac Harmon is happy - Long As I Got My Guitar a great listen for high-quality soulful blues with guitar highlights aplenty.

Bluesdoodles rating: 3 Doodle Paws – a great listen for high-quality soulful blues with guitar highlights aplenty.

Here is a man who was raised in a blues-drenched district of Jackson, Mississippi with a father who played the harmonica for the likes of Muddy, BB and Albert King and Little Milton. It comes as no surprise therefore that Zac Harmon is similarly drenched. Add to that his professional career started at age sixteen when he began playing the guitar with artists such as Sam Myers, Dorothy Moore and ZZ Hill among many.  After a move to LA he became a sought after songwriter and producer and worked with such diverse musicians as Michael Jackson, Freddie Jackson and the O’Jays. He also forged a formidable reputation as a composer and has written dozens and dozens of film, TV and commercial pieces. He is now on to his eighth album of guitar-led blues and on this latest release, As Long As I Got My Guitar, he has again recorded with two distinct bands. The first, known as The Rays, are a group of experienced and class musicians from the world of blues; the second is his touring band…equally experienced and classy. Together this troupe have woven the blues around funk, R’n’B, soul, gospel and rock on eight original and two ‘cover’ songs. His last album, Mississippi Bar BQ went down well with Bluesdoodles and means we look forward to this one even more. Inevitably, it was conceived under lockdown and Zac says it all with one sentence:

After a year of picking up my guitar and then putting it down, I finally realise that as long as I got my guitar, all is good with my soul.

The tribulations of not performing and playing is hard for most musicians…this ennui and the sad loss of his mother in May 2021 led to Zac picking it all up again (literally) and this album is the result.

Opening with Deal With The Devil, maintains the standard we are used to from Zac: soulful vocals and a fluid guitar combine on a sort of rolling Santana-esque slice of lovely blues. The gorgeous tone of the guitar peppers the whole song and the solo is imaginative and descriptive. People Been Talking has a familiar base that Zac layers with more lovely guitar as his soulful side surfaces through the liquid vocals. Crying Shame is written by Sandy Carroll whose lovely album Blues and Angels is reviewed on Bluesdoodles) so we know its genesis is sound. Zac and the accordion bring a touch of zydeco styled soul to the proceedings as he does Sandy proud on this rendition, and slots in a picked solo that hints at the melody while singing its own song.

Soul Land, unsurprisingly, is very much a soul song with the typical chord work of this genre but he disappoints me at least, as the ‘solo’ has a beautiful tone, but lasts only a few bars. Love For You Baby stays on the soulful side, but the guitar is as vocal as the vocals although there is an irritating ‘tinging’ percussion that, to my ear, detracts from the song, although the solo is worth seeking out. The title track, however, is much better as he channels his inner Albert King on Long As I Got My Guitar. More great guitar phrasing between the lyrics and a cracking solo…carefully picked notes with some bends that make it sing all the sweeter. Waiting To Be Free follows a blues pattern too (the background riff is very similar to Black Velvet Stallion by the fantabulous Budgie, which is a good thing.) A great song that vies strongly with the previous one as my favourite.

New Year’s Day is, from my point of view at least, a huge relief as it isn’t the U2 song that always sets my teeth on edge(!) This one is a funk blues with soul layered behind it… it may not sound, at first, like a guitarists song, but wait for the solo and its Santa feel. Imagine A Prayer is also from Sandy Carroll but, this time, with her husband and legendary producer Jim Gaines co-writing. (Jim also produced this album.) It is tinged with gospel, courtesy of the backing vocals, but the soulful blues base is still there and the subtle guitar central piece is sparse and lovely.

The final track, Ashes To The Wind, is a ballad with the music reflecting the pathos of the lyrics and the keyboards play a significant part in setting the mood. All in all, then, this is a very good album with sufficient blues to keep me happy. The playing is exceptional on every track and will be welcome whenever it crops up on my shuffled iPod. Yes, a couple of tracks didn’t do it for me but that doesn’t reflect on their quality…so if you like soulful and funky blues liberally peppered with brilliant guitar then this is most definitely for you.

Zac Harmon is happy - Long As I Got My Guitar

Tracklisting:
Deal With The Devil
People Been Talking
Crying Shame
Soul Land
Love For You Baby
Long As I Got My Guitar
Waiting To Be Free
New Year’s Day
Imagine A Prayer
Ashes To The Wind

Musicians:
Zac Harmon: guitar, vocals
‘The Rays’ perform on all tracks bar Love For You Baby, where The Zac Harmon Band take over.
Bob Trenchard: bass
Richy Puga: drums
Johnny McGhee: guitar
Dan Ferguson: keyboards

The Zac Harmon Band
Corey Lacy: keyboards, backing vocals
Chris Gipson: bass
Jamil Byron: drums
SueAnn Carwell: backing vocals
Munyungo Jackson: percussion

Produced by Jim Gaines at Sonic Ranch, Texas.

Long As I Got My Guitar is available now on Catfood Records.

Connect with Zac Harmon across SOCIAL MEDIA
Official Website
Facebook
Instagram
Twitter
YouTube

(iTunes led me to Zac’s last album and then to another Zac, but spelt Zakk, as in Wild and his appearance on a brilliant blues covers album called LA Blues Authority. His version (alongside  James Lomenzo and Greg D’Angelo) of Baby Please Don’t Go is excellent (although the version by Budgie remains my firm favourite)…as were the entire series of the LA Blues Authority releases which saw Vol 2 being Glenn Hughes’ return to recording as well as great tributes to Cream and SRV.)

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