Zac Harmon, as he did as the headliner of the 2013 Spirit of Kansas Blues Festival — the seventh edition of which will be Monday at Lake Shawnee — wowed the Landon Arena crowd as the evening’s penultimate act.
Topeka is a blues-loving town, and in the case of Harmon, his current Blind Pig album describes how he fit Saturday’s bill: “Right Man Right Now.”
Whether he was driving the crowd to its feet to dance to some rousing blues or setting a more mournful tone with his wailing guitar chops, Harmon’s set alone was worth the price of admission, had there been one.
While his set drew mainly from his own catalog of original blues and a few genre standards, Harmon demonstrated he could astound with an unexpected cover.
In a salute to veterans, current military personnel, firefighters, police officers and everyone else who keeps us out of harm’s way, Harmon delivered an amazing cover of “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” saying the Bob Dylan-penned song as recorded by Guns n’ Roses was the favorite of a young soldier who when not sweeping for roadside bombs escorted him in 2010 as he performed in Iraq.
The way Harmon covered the song was heaven-sent and showed that for guitar skills, showmanship and songwriting prowess, Harmon is worth seeing again and again and again.
ZAC HARMON, FROM JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI, is the latest representative from the birthplace of the blues to make his mark on this most quintessential of American art forms. With his new Blind Pig Records release, Right Man Right Now, Zac delivers his own fresh take on the blues while not veering too far away from its roots and the legends who planted them. Red Hot Rock Magazine had the pleasure of speaking at length to Zac, a well-spoken, laid-back southern gentleman. What follows are the well-picked fruits of that conversation.
RED HOT ROCK MAGAZINE: Hey, Zac! How are you doing, man?
ZAC HARMON: I’m doing fine. How are you?
RHRM: OK. Your new album, Right Man Right Now, is a nice one. All different types of blues on there, but it all sounds like Zac Harmon.
ZH: Ha ha ha! Well, good. Good. Glad you like it.
RHRM: Do I understand your history correctly, that your first professional gig was touring with Sam Myers when you were only sixteen years old?
ZH: Oh, yeah.
RHRM: I remember first seeing Sam performing with Anson Funderburgh And The Rockets back in ’89 at Skipper’s Smokehouse in Tampa, Florida opening up for John Lee Hooker. Great stuff! And there’s the Anson Funderburgh connection. He sits in on “Raising Hell” on your new record with some expectedly tasty guitar. Do you guys go way back?
ZH: Oh, yeah. Well, Anson and I have been friends since Sam started playing with him. He’s a good guy, you know. And I just developed a strong bond with him because Anson gave Sam a second time around in his career. ‘Cause Sam was one of the guys from the old school. In the late ‘70s, early ‘80s, his style of blues was pretty much kind of old school at that point. So, Anson kind of revived his career and I will always respect him for that. Sam played drums with Elmore James. He’s the drummer on “Dust My Blues”.
Writing a song is very personal, it opens up wounds, it can also heal hurts or it can raise the roof in love and lust. I fretted over this category more than any other. How could I choose one over the other. What our winner did was address a topic that is like that 300 pound elephant in the room, and does so with a style and grace that makes me proud to award him this years award.
Song Of the Year:
Walter Trout – Gonna Live Again
Karen Lovely – Save Me
Mighty Mike Schermer – Hear You Call Him Baby
Fiona Boyes – Juke Joint On Moses Lane
Zac Harmon – Long Live The Blues
When guitarist/singer/songwriter Zac Harmon won the International Blues Challenge in 2004, he was representing his Los Angeles blues society and not his home town of Jackson, Mississippi, but he chuckles now thinking about why he entered the contest. “The reason I wanted to go to Memphis is because it would be close enough for all my folks from Jackson to come up and see me play.” The old saw about not being able to go home again is rarely true for blues artists who draw deeply from their Delta roots. True blues is infused with delta dirt and the ghosts that haunt the memories and inspire the muse of artists like Zac Harmon.
Harmon once again returns to the Deep South on Thursday, October 8, to perform at the 30th annual King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Arkansas. Then on Saturday he will participate in The Festival’s fifth annual Call and Response Blues Symposium ...
Good music speaks for itself. Long-time session- and side-man Zac Harmon, who produced and wrote music for artists as varied as Black Uhuru and The O’Jays, has made some good music after launching his young solo blues career.
Hailing from Jackson, Mississippi, Harmon spent a number of years playing with soul-blues artists like Z.Z. Hill and Dorothy Moore when they toured the South. In the 1980s he moved to Los Angeles where he became a studio fixture. He developed his talents and made some great connections, but it wasn’t until 2002 that he launched his blues career with Live at Babe and Ricky’s Inn. Since then he has released a handful of albums on independent labels, including the well received From the Root in 2009...
Blind Pig Records is proud to announce the signing of award-winning guitarist, organist, singer, and songwriter Zac Harmon! Said Harmon of the signing, "I couldn't be more excited to be with Blind Pig. A label that's put out some of my favorite blues records of all time. To be part of that team is a special kind of thrill for me."
The legendary Isabel Records of Paris France announces the release of "Shot In The Kill Zone" by Zac Harmon. This album was recorded live in Paris France. Isabel Records is famous for recording Blue's greats such as Junior Wells, Buddy Guy and a host of others.
Category 5 Amplification has added Zac Harmon, the 2004 International Blues Challenge winner, 2005 best new Blues artist winner,- XM radio, and Blues Music Awards 2006 best new blues artist debut winner to the list of accomplished artists endorsing Category 5 Amplification. Zac will be playing the Andrew model amp, a 2 channel, 44 watt, 2 x 12 amp, powered by 2 – KT-66 tubes. Zac spends a majority of the time on Channel 2, voiced closely to a Blackface era Super.
Last week we began our conversation with Zac Harmon (if you missed last week's Part One click HERE to read it now in our ARCHIVES). This week we pick up our conversation with...
Adam Harris for BluesWax: It's beautiful to watch these younger kids, guys like Slick Ballinger, for instance, who are observant. What's important is that without being a purist you have to know where it all comes from, right?
Zac Harmon: Let me tell you something, Slick is studying what the guys did. He is still finding himself, three or four years from now what you're going to hear from him is gonna be his expression of the Blues, respecting the roots. He's studying the roots. He's done lived with Othar Turner and all those guys. But his expression will not be what they did, it's gonna be what he does. It's gonna be an evolution and I hope that they give him an even break.
Zac Harmon's hands are high above his head, outstretched towards a captivated crew of blissful Blues Cruisers witnessing one of many "Pro-Am Jams" aboard the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. "Can I bring it down just a bit," Harmon requests as he lowers his arms slowly, as if hushing the sound with this hands. His crew of amateur, yet competent backers, oblige nicely. Stratocaster hanging around his neck, the heels of his boots tap on beats two and four as Harmon sways his shoulders. He's leading this jam the way an evangelical minister leads a Southern Baptist tent revival, conducting his band the way a maestro oversees his orchestra. This is the kind of spirituality only found upon a cruise booked tight with Blues fans and musicians, professional or otherwise. "What I need to hear right now, is this keyboard right here," Harmon commands, pointing back to the man on the electric 88s, who has undoubtedly caught the spirit. "Awwww yeah," Harmon coos, "That's nice."
Zac Harmon Named Best New Blues Artist Zac Harmon has been named Best New Blues Artist by the listeners of XM Satellite Radio in their First Annual XM Nation Music Awards. The nominees were chosen by the staff, and the winner was chosen by 1.4 million voting fans.
Greetings My Friends, I am sad to report that the great Little Milton Campbell has passed. Little Milton was one of the greatest bluesmen to ever touch a guitar. His music was a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Everytime the door opened at the Birdland Cafe in Jackson Mississippi back in the 60's & 70's, you would here a Little Milton song blasting from the jukebox. Milton would come to Jackson about 5 times a year and I would see him when he would come into my Father's store on Farish street.
The first time I got to see Little Milton play will be forever in my mind as if it were yesterday. My Mom took me to the Jackson Coliseum when I was 9 years old to see BB King, Albert King, & of course Little Milton. This show was incredible. BB did his thing and of course Albert was smokin but I was captured by the vocal and guitar style of Little Milton Campbell. From that point forward I was hooked. In 1977 I almost got the opportunity to join Little Milton's band. I had just completed a tour with Dorothy Moore and was called by London Moffet who was Milton's music director at the time. I wanted to take the gig so bad but I had promised my Mother that I would return to college as soon as Dorothy's tour was complete. Finally at the 2004 Handy Awards, I got the opportunity to hang out with Little Milton. He watched my performance before the award show and came over to tell me how good he thought I was. You know hearing him say that put me up on a cloud. He gave me great advice and positive encouragement to keep the Blues tradition alive. I'm gonna miss Little Milton. God Bless his soul and I know he's headlining in Heaven. Zac Harmon