Delta Blues Duets

by Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers

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All acoustic blues duets by Erin Harpe and her Dad, Neil Harpe!

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If you love that real authentic Delta sound and regret that you never got the chance to see Memphis Minnie and Bessie Smith to perform, you won't want to miss the work of the young blues singer Erin Harpe from Boston. For her new album "Delta Blues Duets" she takes you on a trip through the Delta circa 1930. The name says it all, "Delta Blues Duets", Erin and her dad Neil Harpe, both on fingerpickin' and vocals, approach the sound of Memphis Minnie when she was partnered with Kansas Joe! Erin's voice is perfect for these kinds of songs, bluesy and full of sound and soul, reminding me of Bonnie Raitt's debut CD, her fingerpickin' is also the best.

The song selection is very strong, including well-known songs such as "Chauffer Blues", "Kokomo Blues", "Fishin' Blues" and "In My Girlish Days", but also more obscure songs, including the beautiful "Stop and Listen Blues" and "Winnie The Wailer" - the song Lonnie Johnson wrote in the model of "Minnie the Moocher", written two years earlier by Cab Calloway. A beauty of a CD, both in it's austere simplicity, but also by the beautiful voice of Erin. A CD that I will certainly continue to run, because the great songs from that period are timeless, witness the numerous shells are still more of this type of songs continue to emerge.

For those who love to early Bonnie Raitt, Maria Muldaur, Rory Block and similar-sounding singers, especially, a must!

-Ron @ Rootstime.BE, Belgium

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Erin Harpe has earned respect as a solo blues artist for her sparse renditions of vintage blues songs originally written by the likes of Memphis Minnie, Bessie Smith, and Kansas Joe. Growing up in the Washington D.C. area, Harpe was schooled by her father Neil Harpe. The elder Harpe had her playing out in coffeehouses, folk festivals, bars, and parties through out D.C. Landing in Boston after college; Ms. Harpe soon started her bifurcated musical career.

On her sophomore blues effort, Delta Blues Duets, Harpe has recruited her dad to back her on guitar and vocals. Both Harpes have voices that can stand alone without the music. On “Bye Bye Blues,” the guitars are twisty and the vocals are authentic for this genre. Each Harpe has true range. Being father and daughter they naturally work well together - the combination of the two making this disc successful.

“Called You This Morning” features Neil’s voice sounding appropriately raspy. Erin doesn’t sound nearly as whisky-soaked, but she does sound soulful and real. She has moments when her voice wraps around these lyrics as tight as an elastic band, her command making these songs her own.

On guitars, these two weave a wall of bluesy old-time sweetness. Their finger picking styles conjure images of Southern blues musicians playing on each other’s front porches on hot summer evenings. “Chauffer Blues” has a thicker guitar sound that perfectly matches Erin’s vocal delivery. She grew up with this music, and she has a good sense of its fundamentals.

In “Kokomo Blues,” the Harpes create a huge bluesy backdrop with slide and rhythm, while Erin fills the melody with her voice, something she is vocally strong enough to pull off. There is a sweetness to the melody they play on “Fishin’ Blues” that actually creates the breezy mood of this favorite past time. Father and daughter clearly enjoy singing this song together, bringing warmth and tenderness to it.

Each track gives the listener insight into just how much a solo or duo can accomplish with sparse instrumentation around one or two voices. “In My Girlish Days,” with it’s 1936 picking approach, allows Erin’s voice to stretch and effectively fill out the sound. “Mississippi Delta Blues” uses a plucky classic blues guitar chord progression. “Down And Out,” meanwhile, finds Erin’s voice wringing a lot of feeling out of each verse.

Erin’s best performance on Delta Blues Duets happens on “Stop And Listen Blues,” a story song about going to court and facing a tough judge. She sounds appropriately wry, while her rhythm guitar kicks each verse forward with solid smacks. She also sounds like an authentic blues chanteuse on “Winnie The Wailer,” another story song, and here she reaches the emotive quality of Billie Holiday.

There is not a weak moment on this whole record. The liner notes do not include song credits, so only blues aficionados will know the original songwriters. Otherwise, daughter and father Harpe have made a valiant, valid effort at bringing this music to a modern audience.

-Bill Copeland

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credits

released March 1, 2008

Erin Harpe: vocals, acoustic guitar
Neil Harpe: vocals, acoustic guitar

Recorded by Ted Paduck and Ken Simon
at Mix One Studios, Boston MA.

Produced by Jim Countryman and Erin Harpe.

Mastered by Darron Burke at Makeshift Studios, Hyde Park MA.

Graphic Design by Erin Harpe.

Copyright 2008 Juicy Juju Records/Squirrelygirl Music.

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Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers Boston

Charismatic singer/guitarist Erin Harpe and her band the Delta Swingers have become favorites around New England, with a growing fan base around the world. Their music is rooted in vintage 1930's Mississippi delta blues, then shaken and stirred with other genres like soul, funk, country and reggae, evoking a wild southern juke joint where the whiskey and gin are flowing and everybody’s dancing. ... more

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