REVIEWS and PRESS
"It took just one note from his guitar — a soulful moan-like sound — and the thousands of people in attendance to see blues superstar Zac Harmon perform during San Angelo’s 9th Annual Simply Texas Blues Festival, truly understood the blues."
Mississippi BarBQ - The Reviews Are In!
by Richard Ludmerer
Zac Harmon is from Jackson Ms. where he grew up in a musical family. His father, a pharmacist, played harmonica while tending to the needs of local musicians including Muddy Waters, BB King, Albert King, Ike & Tina Turner, and Little Milton. Young Zac began his professional career as a guitarist playing with Sam Myers, Dorothy Moore and Z. Z. Hill. At the age of 21 he moved to Los Angeles and found work as a studio musician, songwriter and producer. As producer he worked with the reggae band Black Uhuru resulting in a 1994 Grammy nomination.
After composing some blues for a movie score Harmon recorded his first blues album, “Live at Babe & Ricky’s Inn”, and introduced himself as a torchbearer for future generations. Zac Harmon and the Mid-South Revue took first place in the band competition at the 2004 International Blues Challenge. In 2005 Harmon released “The Blues According To Zacariah” and won the Blues Music Award for “Best New Artist Debut”. As an actor Harmon starred in the independent feature film “Black and Blue” in 2010. He released his last album “Right Man Right Now” in 2016 on Blind Pig Records.
“Mississippi BarBQ” is Harmon’s seventh album overall and first for Catfood Records. The album is produced by Jim Gaines and recorded at the Sonic Ranch Studios, in Tornillo, Texas; thirty miles east of El Paso International Airport. Eight of the eleven songs were written or co-written by Harmon, five with Catfood Records owner and Executive Producer Bob Trenchard.
Harmon, is both vocalist and lead guitarist on all tracks, recorded with two completely different bands; Trenchard’s “Rays” (formerly known as Kay, Kay and The Rays) on seven tracks, and The Zac Harmon Band on four. The Rays include bassist Trenchard, Richie Puga, drums; Johnny McGhee, guitar; Dan Ferguson, keyboards; and the horn section of trumpeter Mike Middleton, alto saxophonist Andy Roman, tenor and baritone saxophonist Nick Flood, and Drake Dominigue, trombone and tuba. The horn arrangements are by Rudy Torres.
“How’d you get So Cold” is the first of five tunes from the songwriting team of Harmon and Trenchard with some fine guitar from Harmon. The funky “Smoke and Mirrors” features the background singers Janelle Thompson, Shakara Weston, and SueAnn Carwell. The background singers are featured again on the fabulous title track, a soon to be Southern Soul classic, with Corey Carmichael on keyboards. “Desperate Love” is another well produced track with the horns and the background singers, and another nice solo from Harmon. The fifth song from them is “Sunday Morning After Saturday Night”.
Linda “Kay Kay” Greenwade passed in 2012 one of her songs “Lord Save Me From L.A.” is reprised here, co-written with Trenchard, it also appears on Catfood Records “The Best of Kay Kay and The Rays”. “Son you gotta’ go down, down, down, down that Gypsy Road”, is from Trey Hardin and Sandy Carroll.
Four more songs are performed with Harmon’s regular touring band, included are keyboardist Carmichael and the rhythm section of Chris Gipson, bass; and Ralph Forrest, drums. Harmon’s “Honey Pleez” features Bob Corritore on harmonica. “Make A Dollar Out of 15 Cents” is from Harmon and co-writer John Hahn. The lone cover is an outstanding version of the Bob Dylan classic “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”.
Harmon states “For the first time in my career, I have had the opportunity to just be the best artist I can be at the guidance of a master producer…I got a chance to work with The Rays, which is a group of studio musicians headed up by Bob Trenchard. The Rays are incredible, and they bring the best out of every song. I also got a chance to collaborate in the writing with Trenchard…my favorite is the title song “Mississippi BarBQ” …my other favorite is “A Dollar Out of 15 Cents” which I wrote with John Hahn.”
Harmon has surrounded himself with the best in the business resulting in this truly great recording. Vocally he sounds more relaxed than ever before. This is an award winning effort.
by Mike O'Cull
Award-winning blues vocalist and guitarist Zac Harmon recently became part of the Catfood Records family and his debut effort, Mississippi Bar BQ on the El Paso, Texas-based label, comes out July 19th, 2019. Produced by Grammy-winner Jim Gaines (Santana, Steve Ray Vaughan) Mississippi Bar BQ gives the world ten new original songs and a killer cover of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” The record is the most progressive release of Harmon’s career and he revels in the opportunity to take his Bobby “Blue” Bland-meets-Freddie King style anywhere he wants go under the watchful ears of a master producer.
Born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, Zac Harmon is a true descendant of the music that poured out of the city’s historic Farish Street district, home of blues legend Elmore James. He started his professional career at age 16, playing guitar with Sam Myers, a friend of his father. A short two years later, he was playing with Dorothy Moore, Z.Z. Hill, and other well-known blues artists. He has since gone on to have a long and illustrious life in the blues, and Mississippi Bar BQ is the beginning of an exciting new chapter in his story.
Harmon works with two distinct bands on these sessions and both outfits put down admirable performances. Seven tracks were cut with The Rays, an extra-solid bunch of studio veterans who fit Harmon’s songs like a second skin. The other four cuts were done with Harmon’s top-flight road band, who also know how to do it right when the red light comes on. This blended effort resulted in a supremely listenable record that showcases every bit of Harmon’s talent and remains captivating from beginning to end.
“Gypsy Road” opens the album with a mid-speed funk/rock vibe that’s instantly alluring. Zac lays down some extremely toneful guitar parts throughout the main groove and then demonstrates his deft lead phrasing during a solo bridge. His voice is warm, expressive, and smooth, with an uptown quality that allows him to stand apart from more rough-hewn blues singers. “Smoke and Mirrors” takes the funk deeper and tells the all-too-common tale of love gone wrong. Dan Ferguson of The Rays turns in a shark-toothed clavinet groove on this one that really propels the pocket while Harmon laments that “It wasn’t love, just a hustler’s con.” If this doesn’t make you dance, nothing will.
The title track, “Mississippi Bar BQ,” is the kind of soulful R&B song most artists write about love gone right but Harmon uses these lush chords to sing about food, fun, family, and friends. It’s a feel-good song that’s right on target for Summer partying and makes the idea of ribs, beers, and blues at Zac’s place sound like one heck of a good time. Harmon puts down some mellow and melodic lead guitar that goes well with the mood of the moment and makes all seem right with the world.
Harmon’s take on “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” is heavily gospel and R&B-influenced and he breathes much freshness into a song that so many others have sung before him. He ups the intensity in the middle with some energetic blues/rock soloing and ample support from his Zac Harmon Band. Harmon finds something new in this familiar song and it’s one of his best moments on the entire set.
Mississippi Bar BQ is a mighty first release on his new label and Harmon sounds ready and able to keep reaching for these type of heights. The writing, playing, and singing here all happen at a high level and Harmon sounds like he has another dozen albums of music inside him ready to burst out. If you’re not already hip to him, you should be. You will absolutely love this record!
by Eric Schuurmans
"One of the leaders of the new roots and blues music revolution... "
William Zach "Zac" Harmon, from Jackson, MS, is a singer-songwriter and blues musician. Harmon worked with Northern Blues Music (Toronto, Ontario, CA) until 2015, then with Blind Pig Records (San Francisco, CA) and recently made his debut with Catfood Records (El Paso, TX).
While still in high school, Harmon played guitar for blues musicians like Z.Z. Hill, Dorothy Moore and Sam Myers. In the 80's he moves to Los Angeles to work as a musician. He started as a studio musician and later became a songwriter/producer. Harmon was the producer of Black Uhuru's album 'The Mystical Truth', which received a Grammy nomination in 1994. He also wrote songs for The O'Jays, The Whispers, Karyn White and Alexander O'Neal.
Harmon made his solo debut in 2003 as a blues musician with 'Live at Babe and Ricky's Inn'. Harmon (& The Mid South Blues Revue) will be nominated as "Best Unsigned Blues Band" at IBC 2004. In 2005, Harmon was voted "Best New Blues Artist" by the listeners of XM Satellite Radio and in 2006 he received a Blues Music Award for his album "The Blues According to Zacariah"  as "Best New Artist Debut". In 2010, Harmon received a Peavey Award at the Mississippi Celebrates its GRAMMY Legacy.
by Mladen Lončar - Mike
With truly unquenchable joy I've been writing a text related to the inaugural album "Mississippi BarBQ" for Catfood Records. The owner of this album is the famous blues musician Zac Harmon. Exclusively thanks to Blind Raccoon, the Blues Corner Music Web Portal, SoundGuardian has the exclusive opportunity to present this great project of the great Zac Harmon.
"Mississippi BarBQ" was produced by Jim Gaines, who received Grammy for his work with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Santana and Journey. While Zac is supporting the eight-band, "background" is made by The Rays and his "touring" band with which he plays four songs. It can be reliably confirmed that this is his most extensive, best-in-class study done so far.
He grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, Zac, as a teenager, performing with blues artists such as ZZ Hill, Sam Myers and Dorothy Moore, before moving to LA where he really devotes his career to a studio musician, composer and producer. Today, Zac lives in Dallas, and for several years now lives and works as a solo artist with great and visited international tours in Europe, Africa, Iraq and even performing at the "Great Pyramids". Zac Harmon was named one of the ten artists that "Blues Revue" represents as the future of blues.
“Mississippi BarBQ” is not a typical blues album, it's actually an eclectic blend of soul, funk and blues with an electric guitar with well-written poems by Zac and composers who wrote for Johnny Rawls, Otis Clay and Shemekia Copeland. Accordingly, the offered and recorded content is actually a strong confirmation of his extreme quality and musical ingenuity.
Through the album, there is a flash of soul-colored vocals, incredible artwork in guitar play, a solid and definite "sound," which further outlines each song in particular, and of course, there are also fantastic accompanying musicians. All in all this is a winning formula and, of course, the result could not be missed, just the opposite! And this is confirmed by the following statement:
"Harman's stage show is like a blues symphony." - Blues Bytes
The album offers us ten author tracks and Zac's Dylan's "Knockin 'on Heaven's Door." In most of the songs we are listening to Zac’s accompanied by The Rays: Bob Trenchard (bass), Richy Puga (drums), Johnny McGhee (guitar), Dan Ferguson (keyboards), Mike Middleton (trumpet), Andy Roman (alt saxophone), Nick Flood tenor and baritone saxophone) and Drake Dominigue (trombone and tubes). On several other tracks, Zac follows his already mentioned accompanying "touring" band. There is no doubt that from about 2003 until now Zac Harmon has been heading for the lead, he is baptized for "the next generation of blues musicians, but also the musical style itself. Believe it is not without any connection, because Zac and his musicians associate their music with a lot of energy, with a strong sense of blues presentation. The compositions combine the sensuous and powerful vocals of Zac Harmon with a pulsating instrumentalist background. Therefore, and in the future, this winning combination or formula should not be ignored, anyway! It should be well received and remembered.
For this musician, Lucky Peterson said, "Zac Harmon is pure blues power that hits ya in your soul."
The fact is that from the song in the song Zac and the band change the styles, the atmosphere, the rhythm so that at one point we are not bored. Anyway, 48 minutes shuts in a moment and when it comes to the end, we just go from scratch.
After all, I think that Zac Harmon's whole story is still overwhelming, as the album "Mississippi BarBQ" carries an emphasized positive charge and there is an inevitable optimism that is so much needed for everyone.
In the end, Zac and the society about their future do not have to be afraid, such albums will open each door. So do not worry about buying this album anyway. Zac Harmon will have fun having fun, filling you with a free night or you will be spending your days enjoying your own album. And so once more without fear, enjoy it! Personally, I already do this for weeks.