I want to start this review off by simply stating that prior to seeing Zac Harmon live, I honestly didn't know much about him. Honestly, I wasn't all that familiar with his work. Which now that I HAVE seen him live, a couple of times in fact, I can't believe he wasn't already in heavy rotation on my playlists.
A Jackson MIssissippi native he grew up in the Farish Street District, which is also the home of another Blues legend, Elmore James. His mother played piano, and his father played harmonica in addition to being the city's first black pharmacist while also helping taking care of Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Ike and Tina Turner, Albert King, and Little Milton.
Having grown up in a house and neighborhood full of Blues greats and culture, it's not a surprise that he became the artist he is today. Taking the old school feel and putting a new school spin on it. He takes the Blues into the future by continuing to release new and original music that feels refreshing and familiar all at the same time.
Standing up on stage with him is Chris Gipson on bass, Corey Carmichael on the keyboard, Ralph Forrest on drums, and Texas Slim on guitar.
Ralph keeps up a driving beat with the fury of a man possessed and the skill of a fighter pilot, making the hard dives and soaring beats easily flow through each song.
Corey keeps a feeling of the Delta Blues with a bit of a Chicago twist as he flies through the notes with grace and drive.
Chris Gipson stands toe to toe with the best of the bass players I've had the pleasure to enjoy live. And watching him and Zac play off of one another is something that will leave you with a smile on your face.
Texas Slim, well physically he lives up to the name, but in talent and skill he can hit that guitar like a giant! Marking melody and taking a commanding solo that will have you dancing in your seat and on your feet!
Zac's song writing and good humor show through in each song, paired with expert skill on the guitar himself, and a smooth voice makes him the famed triple threat in music.
Some bands will come out and play their songs, and move on. Some will have a lot of fun and bring the audience along as more friends hanging out just enjoying a good time. And some have it locked down tight and practiced to the point of being able to sync up seemingly effortlessly complete with dance moves. The smallest queues will lead the band around to bring what can be a chaotic and delightful moment into a perfectly timed thing of beauty.
And some bands can do them all at once. There's one thing I will say though, Zac and the band don't "just come out and play their songs," they come out to bring those songs to life and slide from one to the next in a fluid motion.
One of my favorite aspects of live music is the interplay between the artist and the audience that you obviously can't get with a studio produced album. The stories and the unexpected moments, that even the band might not have been expecting, make for a unique experience. And the best concerts I've ever attended have had the quality of not being played at but played to and communicated with.
Taking the time to give backstory or to just tell a tale for entertainment, Zac knows how to play to his audience masterfully. From the setup for Blue Pill Thrill, to the in depth description of why he plays Knocking on Heavens Door at each show. A story that in the way he takes the time to recognize those who have served in the military, are first responders, and are healthcare workers; he brings you on an emotional journey that he goes on with us each time.
I saw the band live for the first time at The Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley MA and then again a short time later at the Gloucester Blues Festival. And each time he hit the moment of Knocking on Heavens Door, you could see and feel the genuine emotion of the moment for him each time as if it were the first. It's a story that is best left told by the man himself. But just brace yourself, you'll find yourself wrapt in the emotion of the moment before you realize what has happened. It's one of those genuine life moments that will stick with you.
The band's latest album "Right Man Right Now" is one that you will find featured heavily in the current tour and rightly so. It's a lot of fun to hear and more fun to see.
I walked away surprised and grateful that I took the chance on someone I didn't know and discovered someone I should have known all along. Make sure you discover him as well!
*This review was not solicited by the musicians or venue.