Harp master Mark Hummel and his backing band The Golden State Lone Star Revue arrived in Richmond’s West End and delivered a great blues show for a small but enthusiastic audience. Hummel, who has been leading bands and recording for years, is a Grammy-nominated and Blues Music Award-winning artist who is well versed in all forms of the blues, and makes it his mission to preserve that old-school sound.
That doesn’t mean his shows are museum pieces, no, he and the band swing hard and play strong danceable music, he just likes to find that cool West Coast sound with strong mixes of Chicago jump and Texas rhythms that will get into your soul and move you in ways many other bands can’t.
Last night they rolled into Buz & Ned’s Real Barbecue for a late show, taking the stage at 9 o’clock, sometime after the dinner rush had wandered out, leaving an audience of blues fans who hung on every note.
The Golden State Lone Star Revue consisted of three strong players: Mike Keller on guitar and the rhythm section of Wes Starr on drums and R.W. Grigsby on bass. Starr and Grigsby began playing together in high school and they were able to put a deep pocket into a song that allowed Keller and Hummel to take great leads on both guitar and harp respectively.
Most of the time Anson Funderburgh would be with the band, but due to scheduling difficulties, Funderbrugh was unavailable, but Keller is a monster guitar player and he took over the six-string chores without missing a beat. He took several extended breaks throughout the night and rocked them all beautifully.
Hummel and company kicked off the show with a great cover of My Love Is Here To Stay before moving on to a rocking version of Howlin’ Wolf’s Shake For Me. After a few minutes connecting with the crowd, they played a great version of Gatemouth Brown’s Midnight Hour before taking a quick detour to the Peach State for a rousing version of Georgia Slop.
While the band has been hot so far, Hummel took it higher with an amazing break on Percy Mayfield’s Never No More. While he would continue to provide great breaks throughout the night, this is one that caught everyone’s attention and Hummel received some extended applause for his effort.
The first slow blues song of the night was What’s That She Got which featured great guitar and harp breaks and they followed up with Pepper Mama Blues. Hummel wasn’t using a playlist for this show, he and other band members were tossing out suggestions based on audience response and the next song was from his Grammy Nominated album, Remembering Little Walter called I Got To Go.
That album featured several great harp players interpreting several different Little Walter tunes and the result is one of the best albums of 2012.
He followed up with a tribute to his old friend, Billy Boy Arnold, Aint’ Got You, and a rocking version of the recently passed Fats Domino’s Reading, Willing And Able. As there was no barrelhouse piano in the group, Keller took the lead and gave the song a nice twist.
The band kept moving with Blues Stop Knockin’ and Detroit Blues. The latter song was written by bass player Grigsby. From there, they played a great slow blues tune, You’re Breaking My Heart.
Hummel stepped back from the microphone to just play the harp and Keller stepped up to sing Baby Lee by John Lee Hooker and Just Keep Loving Her. As the night was winding down, they finished up with the Mose Allison song, Stop This World with a great call and response run between the guitar and harp, and The Hustle Is On.
There was no way the audience was going to let them go without an encore, so the band obliged with a hot instrumental, Walkin’ With Mr. Lee.
Hummel seems to always be on the road. I wonder if this is a problem for all blues artists? Is there enough of an audience to make it possible for these guys to play to larger audiences and support themselves without traveling 200 plus days a year?
I truly hope more people discover the artistry of Mark Hummel. He plays a mean case of the blues and he’s surrounded himself with strong sidemen who make every player sound their best. Maybe it’s a matter of perception, but the challenge comes to us to encourage more people to come to a show and discover what it means to be a fan of the blues.
Mark Hummel and the Golden State Lone Star Revue are welcome to come back any time, and when they do, I will do everything in my power to get the word out! I hope the other members of last night’s audience will do the same.