Wednesday, January 6, 1999

Now You Can Talk About Me

Posted By on Wed, Jan 6, 1999 at 12:00 AM

If you consider yourself a blues fan and can't understand why you've never heard of George "Harmonica" Smith, don't be too hard on yourself. Unfortunately, you're not alone.

Man, this is blues with a feeling so thick you can use it for gravy. No disrespect to the legions of Stevie Ray Vaughn fans, but if that's the style of blues you're looking for then this may be a bit much to handle. Stevie Ray was one of many branches, whereas George Smith cuts closer to the root.

Smith was born in Helena, Arkansas in 1924, but grew up in Cairo, Illinois. His mother taught him to play the harmonica before he embarked on a life of hoboing and following the blues. Smith played with the likes of Otis Rush and Muddy Waters during the 1950s and some of the '60s. Later, he teamed up with Rod Piazza to form Bacon Fat, which toured the West Coast and Europe. Smith recorded several discs with Bacon Fat, as well as with other projects.

What will throw many fans of the more modern blues style is Smith's starkly deceptive simplicity. These blues can only be played by someone who has carried them around long before he even knew there was a name for what he was carrying.

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More by Keith A. Owens

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