“After a year of picking up my guitar and then putting it down,” says Harmon, “I finally realize that as long as I got my guitar, all is good with my soul.” -Zac Harmon
Rock & Blues Muse
Rock & Blues Muse
by Chris Wheatley
A living link to blues history and an award-winning blues singer, guitarist, Zac Harmon is set to release Long As I Got My Guitar on October 1st on Catfood Records, produced by Grammy-winner Jim Gaines (Santana, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Journey). Long As I Got My Guitar features ten songs performed in Harmon’s inimitable funky, soul-blues style. Backed by his regular touring group plus Catfood Record’s owner Bob Trenchard (bass), Richy Puga (drums), Johnny McGhee (guitar) Dan Ferguson (keyboards) and SueAnn Carwell and Corey Lacey (background vocals), the tracks were co-penned by Harmon and Trenchard. The new album is a follow up to his 2019 Mississippi Bar BQ, released to critical acclaim.
Harmon started a solo career after working as a studio musician, then songwriter and producer. He contributed to major films, TV shows and national commercials. Harmon wrote songs for Troop, Karyn White, Evelyn “Champagne” King, Freddie Jackson, the Whispers, K-Ci & Jo and the O’Jays. He wrote and produced songs for reggae band, Black Uhuru’s Grammy nominated album, Mystical Truth. After composing and performing blues songs for a movie score, Harmon embarked on recording his first blues project, 2003’s Live at Babe & Ricky’s Inn. Multiple awards later by The Blues Music Awards and others plus several acclaimed album releases, Harmon’s new Long As I Got My Guitar is a fine record, showcasing why Harmon has become one of the Blues’ strongest live performers.
Harmon grew up in the Farish Street district of Mississippi, home of Elmore James. Harmon’s mother played piano and, in her role as pharmacist, tended to such legendary figures as Muddy Waters, Albert King and Little Milton. Next door lived a music instructor who regularly hosted Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway. Another neighbour, Bill Farris, recorded Skip James in his home.
“Deal With The Devil” wastes no time in stirring up some fine, smouldering blues-rock. Harmon’s guitar is front and centre, effortlessly spitting out fiery licks. Harmon’s vocals are a delight, smoother and more rounded than many a blues singer, veering more towards the classic Stax soul sound. The band keeps the arrangement airy and light, with plenty of shuffling percussion and moments of nuance, lending a wonderfully polished sheen to the track. Trenchard is no slouch on bass, but Harmon is undoubtedly the star. “Crying Shame” shifts the pace a little, slowing things down to a lovely country-blues tempo. The song washes through like a cool breeze. Harmon’s voice alone would be enough to keep you hooked, but the relaxed ensemble playing feels just as fresh.
“This probably is the most memorable record of my career,” reflects Harmon. “Bob Trenchard and I were so much on the same page with all that we went through in 2020 that it spawned some incredibly emotional song testimonials.” “Ashes To The Wind” is a fine case in point, a remarkably affecting blues-soul number which rolls by with loving energy, stirring up shadows of the great 60s and 70s soul-men. It’s the little touches which will draw you in, but the glue that binds this music tight is the aforementioned unity between the players. Honesty and togetherness imbue this entire album with a warm radiance which is never less than charming.
The title-track smokes and swaggers. Harmon displays wonderful acumen, firing off riffs and runs with consummate ease. “Soul Land” brings more of a laid-back, 80s style, reminiscent of the work of Stevie Wonder. “Everything around me sings in harmony,” sings Harmon and you can’t help but agree. “Imagine A Prayer” sparkles with keyboard vamps, passionate vocals and harmonies. The variety here is part of this album’s appeal. Paired with fantastic playing and open-hearted delivery, there’s much to savour. “After a year of picking up my guitar and then putting it down,” says Harmon, “I finally realize that as long as I got my guitar, all is good with my soul.”
Listening to this album will be good for yours too.
REVIEWS - Long As I Got My Guitar
Making A Scene
Long As I Got My Guitar is the latest from Texas-based blues singer/guitarist Zac Harmon who returns to Bob Trenchard’s Catfood label and again taps producer Jim Gaines, recording at Trenchard’s base studio, the Sonic Ranch, near El Paso. Although Harmon is based in Texas, he originally hails from Jackson, MS and spent a good portion of his career in Los Angeles. His guitar sound reflects Chicago, soul-blues, west coast, classic Southern sounds, as well as those from Texas, Freddie King being an influence. This is his label follow-up to 2019’s Mississippi Bar BQ and features a similar cast, The Rays, who are Bob Trenchard (bass), Richy Puga (drums), and Dan Ferguson (keyboards), plus SueAnn Carwell and Corey Lacey on select tracks. Harmon’s road band of Cory Lacey (keyboards), Chris Gipson (bass), and Jamil Byron (drums) all play on “Love for You Baby” and Lacey adds his keys to two others.
Most tunes are co-written by Harmon and Trenchard, beginning with the down and dirty “Deal with the Devil.” Harmon is one of the strongest, though not widely heralded, contemporary blues artists on the scene, combining soulful vocals and searing guitar lines that make him an acclaimed live performer. His stinging guitar is prominent from the outset. “People Been Talking” takes on more on a soul-blues hue with its background vocals while “Crying Shame” touches on zydeco as Ferguson plays accordion. “Soul Land” returns to the smooth urban croon. “Love for You Baby,” featuring his road band, surprisingly stays in a similar breezy soul groove.
The title track rather obviously accentuates his six-string and has some echoes of Albert King’s “I’ll Play the Blues for You.” “Waiting to Be Free” carries that same gutsy, stinging vibe while “New Year’s Day” with its background vocals” and searing guitars is one of the best examples of how Harmon meshes the two styles. “Imagine a Prayer,” though, is a merge of gospel and soul that sounds just a tad too slick compared to the others. The closer, “Ashes to the Wind” is a heart-wrenching ballad where Harmon summons his deep vocal strengths, making it perhaps the most memorable track.
Surely there are some pandemic thoughts behind the title and even some of his songs, but in the end, Harmon sounds rejuvenated delivering his intoxicating signature mix of blues and soul. Lest there be any doubt, the Trenchard-Harmon pairing is once again a winner.
Bman's Blues Report
I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Long As I Got My Guitar, from Zac Harmon and it's a guitar soaked blues/soul/R&B/funky release. Opening with "Deal With The Devil", a slick, Latin sprinkled blues with a funky bottom. With Harmon on lead vocal and guitar and backed by Bob Trenchard on bass, Richy Puga on drums, Johnny McGhee on guitar and Dan Ferguson keys, it's a really cool opener. On easy soulful ballad, "People Been Talking", Harmon really shows off his silky smooth vocals with SueAnn Carwell and Corey Lacey on backing vocal. Easy funky, "Soul Land", has a real nice melody and backing vocals making it a prime radio track for this release. Title track, "Long As I Got My Guitar" has a real slinky Albert King or Robert Cray like R&B feel and he really soars on his guitar leads. Very nice. With a funky R&B bass line, drums and rhythm guitar, "New Years Day" is bound to get you moving in your seat (if not onto your feet). Harmon, Carwell and Lacey blend nicely on vocal and Puga's percussion work over the drums really adds nice spice. Wrapping the release is "Ashes To The Wind", a soulful ballad, showcasing Harmon on lead vocal and gospel like piano and organ by Ferguson. This is a warm, rich closer for a solid release.
Ben Vee Blues
Soul Blues Chillin' with Zac Harmon
For those of you who haven’t heard of Zac Harmon, he is an award winning bluesman who comfortably resides in the Robert Cray wing of the contemporary blues. In 2006, he won the Blues Music Foundation award for Best New Artist for his album The Blues According To Zacariah. In the years since six more albums have followed including the new recording Long As I Got My Guitar.
Zac has a voice and a guitar style that can best be described as ‘chillin with the soul blues’. His songs on the new album are in parts upbeat, funky, pensive, spiritual, and socially aware. He even ventures “down the bayou” a bit with the delightful accordion accompanied Crying Shame. Zac was born in Jackson Mississippi to parents who schooled him in music. His mother played piano and his father, the first black pharmacist in Mississippi, played harmonica. His dad tended to the needs of Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Albert King, Ike & Tina Turner, and Little Milton at times and all those combined influences have made Zac Harmon one of the great blues & soul men of the roadhouse blues.
Now based in Texas, Zac worked with the renown music producer, Jim Gaines, who most notably produced Stevie Ray Vaughan, Santana, and Journey, to create the soulful music magic on this recording. Backing Zac on most of the tracks are the Rays consisting of Bob Trenchard (bass), Richy Puga (drums), Johnny McGhee (guitars), Dan Ferguson (keyboards and accordion) and backing vocals by SueAnn Carwell and Corey Lacey.
My favorite recording on the album is the title cut, Long As I Got My Guitar. Over the years, I have heard guitar players time and again talk about having survived their days payin’ their blues dues and facing the brutal choice of pawning their guitar for money to pay bills. Zac captures that melancholy experience with some exquisite guitar licks and real world lyrics. I also loved the guitar work on the socially conscious Waiting to Be Free. Another favorite of mine on the recording is People Been Talking which is soul blues at its very finest.
Over the last 18 months all of us have dealt with enforced periods of isolation as a result of the pandemic. It has given most of us a new appreciation of family and friends and, in Zac’s case, he says it gave him the realization that “as long as I have my guitar, all is good with my soul”. All I can add to that is that just listening to Zac sing and play on this new recording had a nice calming effect on my soul best exemplified by his song, Soul Land. Give it and the rest of the songs on this album a listen as you chill to some mighty fine soul blues.
The Rocking Magpie
by Jack Kidd
Effortlessly Rich Variety of The Blues
Born in Jackson, Mississippi but now based in Texas, award winning Blues singer & guitarist Zac Harmon has been ’round the block a time or two and has an iridescent CV stretching way back to playing guitar as a 16 year old, with his Dad’s friend, Sam Meyers.
For more than 25 years he has followed his dream, playing and recording with an impressive list of A1 musicians, ending up in 2021 with a new album which he believes is the most memorable of his illustrious career.
This is his second album released on Catfood Records, following on from 2019’s Mississippi Bar BQ and again Zac has Grammy winning Jim Gaines as the Producer with the label owner Bob Trenchard on Bass. Trenchard also co-wrote 7 of the 10 songs with Zac making him one highly involved and hugely influential participant. The recording was all captured at Sonic Ranch, Tornillo, Texas with the mixing and mastering completed in Tennessee.
“Deal With The Devil” is the lead track and gets the album off on the good foot, with Zac’s precise, stinging guitar licks interspersed between his strong vocal delivery. In fact this is one of 3 tracks that reminded me of the vocals and guitar of Robert Cray and that includes the album’s title track “Long As I Got My Guitar” too.
But wait, there is so much more to this fine album with a couple of very smooth soul efforts where the guitar sounds much more like Ernie Isley than Bobby Cray to me on “New Years Day;” and then again on the more upbeat “Imagine A Prayer”.
Coming across more like a glossy Philly sound than either Memphis or Muscle Shoals is the polished, smoochy version of “Soul Land”, again including an albeit short but stand-out 6 string solo from Harmon.
Zac’s own band members supplement the studio boys on “Love For You Baby” with keyboardist Corey Lacey (who co-wrote the song with Zac) also used to good effect on three other tracks.
Lasting 5 minutes, the closing track, written by Zac and Bob, “Ashes To The Wind” is the longest song on the album but is well worth waiting for, featuring a churchy organ, giving the track an almost gospely feel with SueAnn Carwell and Corey Lacey earning their corn on the backing vocals.
However, the one track that highlights the diversity of music on offer here is also my favourite, “Crying Shame;” an imposing, Swampy, Cajun ballad that could easily have come from the pen of Bobby Charles, with Dan Ferguson’s authentic accordion the prominent ingredient in this delectable gumbo of a song. Once again Zac provides great tone with his guitar playing and adjusts the vocals slightly closer to swamp-pop icon Tony Joe White.
Long As I Got My Guitar is one of those albums that gets better the more you play it and the more you listen too;, the more you hear the subtleties of the musicianship and the imposing lyrics.
All in all, Zac Harmon and his team have delivered a splendid album, rich in variety that effortlessly mixes and melds several sub-genres providing a most enjoyable listening experience. - aka “Messin’ with the Kidd” on lionheartradio.com
by Mladen Lončar - Mike
Although it's only been ten days since the release of the great Zac Harmon's Long As I Got My Guitar, I admit I'm sorry I haven't been able to include it before, but I believe Catfood Records and Blind Raccoon won't be too angry. Simply, things have settled down like this and this great album is right in front of all of us.
The new studio album, by acclaimed, renowned and award-winning Texas blues singer / guitarist Zac Harmon, was produced by Grammy winner Jim Gaines (Santana, Steve Ray Vaughan and Journey) and all recorded at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas.
Long As I Got My Guitar features ten songs performed in Harmon’s inimitable funky, soul-blues sound and great atmosphere, all with Harmon’s dominant guitar and vocals. Alongside him, on most songs we hear The Rays, which consists of: Bob Trenchard (bass), Richy Puga (drums), Johnny McGhee (guitar), Dan Ferguson (keyboards); with SueAnn Carwell and Corey Lacey on Back vocals.
Catfood Records released Zac’s 2019 debut album Mississippi Bar BQ, which was also produced by Jim Gaines and met with great reviews and was well received by both fans of Zac’s music and official reviews. This album is a strong collection of songs that, in fact, tell a story that in its original meaning means that this music, that the blues is very stable, lively and absolutely real. There is no fiction here, there is no mumbling, there is singing about a life that is real, difficult, ruthless and deeply personal. It is this personality that means a lot. The story has its two ends, it’s just a question that you personally are on. Of course, you can't influence this fact in the beginning, you only do it much later. And I have a very clear and direct experience in my small and ordinary life. Everything I dreamed of as a kid,
Zac Harmon is just one of the musicians who have become, and have been a part of my life story for many years.
On the other hand, Zac Harmon is called "master of the blues", his blues combines the best that comes from the sophistication of Bobby "Blue" Bland that combines with the impressive sounds of Freddie King's guitar and, therefore, without any hesitation you can mention Zac Harmon in the same context with the already mentioned Bobby “Blue” Bland, Albert King and Bobby Rush, of course, these are just a few.
Zac Harmon sums up his recent experiences (and gives the title of a new album) with the following statement: “After a year of picking up my guitar and then putting it down, I finally realize that as long as I got my guitar, all is good with my soul.”
The album features flashy soulful vocals, incredible artistry in guitar playing, a solid and definite "sound" that further outlines each song separately, and of course, there are the fantastic aforementioned backing musicians. All in all, this is a winning formula and, of course, the result could not be missed, quite the opposite!
There is no doubt that, from there until 2003 until today, Zac Harmon has become a leader, a torchbearer for “the next generation of blues musicians, but also of the music style itself.” Believe me, this is by no means irrelevant, because Zac and his associated musicians perform their music. with a lot of energy, with a strong sense of blues presentation. The compositions intertwine the sensitive and strong vocals of Zac Harmon with a pulsating instrumental background. Therefore, in the future this winning combination or formula must not be neglected, in fact!
Growing up in Jackson, Mississippi, Zac performed as a teenager with blues artists such as ZZ Hill, Sam Myers and Dorothy Moore and it took place before moving to LA, where he actually devoted himself to a career as a studio musician, composer and producer. Today, Zac lives in Dallas and has been living and working as a solo artist for several years with large and well-attended international tours in Europe, Africa, Iraq, and has even performed at the “Great Pyramids”. Zac Harmon has been named one of the ten artists that “Blues Revue” presents as the future of blues. And of course, that's how I experience him, follow him and with great joy I welcome and process each of his new albums.
For this musician, the late Lucky Peterson said: 'Zac Harmon is pure blues power that hits ya in your soul.'
The fact is that from song to song Zac and the band change styles, mood, rhythm so that we are not bored at any moment. In fact, 40 minutes fly by in an instant and when it comes to the end, we simply go from scratch.
After all, I think that the whole story about Zac Harmon will heat up even more, and considering that the album Long As I Got My Guitar carries a strong positive charge, there is inevitably the optimism that everyone needs so much.
In the end, Zac and company don't have to worry about their future, with albums like this they will open every door. And so ... don't hesitate to buy this album. Zac Harmon will entertain you pleasantly, fill your free evening or you will spend the album Long As I Got My Guitar with pleasantly filled days. And so, once again enjoy without fear! Personally, I’ve been doing this for weeks now.