Reviews

Back In The Blues

Steve “The Harp” Blues Band

 By Randy Hoffman

For the Blues Blowtorch Society

 What we have here folks, is proof that the Blues is kickin’ hard in Central Illinois.  Nobody, let me make that a little clearer, NOBODY plays the blues any better than the Steve “The Harp” Blues Band.  Every aspect of the music is Blues and every part of it is right on target.

 ‘Back in the Blues’ is the opening tune, written by Steve Mehlberg and it is a great start to a fine cd.  Although the opener is the only original tune, each of these songs is possibly the BEST recording of it I’ve heard.  Musically, each one stands on its own merit and as a whole, the cd has great dynamics, changes of pace and is a pleasure to listen to again. 

I have to tell you that I have been given seven cd’s in the past year that featured harmonica players.  Without fail, by the time the cd was over I was tired of listening to harp being blown at the maximum velocity.  This cd has been in my car player for the past 800 miles in two weeks.  It demonstrates that harmonica is a musical instrument to be melded into great blues, not slam all over it. 

Steve’s vocals throughout are very cool; demonstrating range, control and very expressive tone.  If you are from Central Illinois, you already know that Steve is the finest, most versatile harmonica player around.  Now, I think we can say anywhere.  When Steve started playing keyboard a couple years ago, a lot of people said “WHY?  He’s a fantastic harp player, why mess with it?”  Well, this cd shows you how his keys have ‘made’ the total package.   

Now I’ve already harped on Steve’s performance, so let me express my admiration for the way the rest of the band plays on this cd.  Steve “Trak” Trakinat is one of the most tasteful guitar players around.  His rhythm licks are absolutely cool and his leads are hot without overpowering the tune.  He plays such great little fills to put it all together; I can’t say enough about how much touch he has.  John “Polar Bear” Sauter is back on bass and it is the glue that makes it all work, solid, smooth and slick.  Joe “What’s My Nickname?” Zaklan is shuffling the beat just the right way on those drums, with great cymbal touch, accenting the changes and keeping everybody in the groove.  Kudos to Eric Nelson at Eclipse Studios for Recording, Engineering and producing this top quality product.  

If you don’t have this cd already…GET ONE NOW!!!!

 

The Hub

Steve “The Harp” Blues Band

Back in the Blues

Self Release 

From Bloomington-Normal comes a CD of real-deal blues that has purists raving. In this age when every SRV imitator thinks he’s a blues man and nobody even knows who Paul Butterfield was, Steve Mehlberg and band have recorded 10 tracks of upbeat blues so funky you can smell it. The ultimate compliment comes from blues-crotchety DJ Delta Frank from WGLT who said, “Steve has it right. This CD BLOWS ME AWAY!”

As his nickname clearly states, Mehlberg leads his band on harmonica, and he sings with a fairly wide vocal range. Mostly in baritone, Steve can utilize a falsetto vocal to hit some surprising notes. Steve “Trak” Trakinat on guitar is stellar on rhythm and lead. John “Polar Bear” Sauter  on bass and Joe Zaklan on drums keep the beat in a locket deep in their pocket. Eric Nelson at Eclipse Studios engineered and produced the fun. 

Steve wrote the opening title track and selected pure cream for the other 9 tracks. Harmonica nuggets from past masters were given fresh interpretations, like the best one, “Scratch My Back” by Slim Harpo. “I know you can do it/now baby, get to it,” sings Steve following the suave-groove, wah wah harp intro. Rice Miller and Paul Butterfield songs are also given stand out treatment plus Canned Heat’s “Let’s Work Together.”

 

TOWN & CITY MAGAZINE

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Back In The Blues

The Hub

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