Zac Harmon – Long As I Got My Guitar
Publicity: Blind Raccoon
By Peter Lauro, © 2021
As is known, when Zac Harmon jumped into the blues pool back in 2005, he didn’t just make a splash – he created a tsunami. His debut release – “The Blues According To Zacariah” – not only won “Best New Artist” in the XM Radio Awards, but the release also brought home the gold in the “Best New Artist Debut” category at the 2006 Blues Music Awards. With that said, it was well before all that when he blew the Blewzzman away. That happened on May 1, 2004, at the Beale Street Music Festival during the Memphis In May festivities. As the 2:00 PM opening act in the Blues Tent, with a lineup that also featured; Delta Moon; Robert “Wolfman” Belfour; Renee Austin; Ellis Hooks; Eric Sardinas; and Bernard Alison; Zac Harmon & Mid South Blues Review put on a powerfully energetic and incredibly entertaining performance that I actually believe may have stolen the show. As the set ended, I’ll never forget the tribute he paid to his then right hand man – harmonica player Jeff Stone. After the last song, Zac walked over to Jeff and putt his arm around him as he told the crowd “This man is to me what Junior Wells was to Buddy Guy.” What a classy compliment from and to a real class act. From that day, until this day, I’m still a big fan of these fine artists and gentlemen.
That was a seventeen years, hundreds of shows, and a lot of albums ago. Now, Zac is back with what I believe is his ninth release – the one he says “Is probably the most memorable record of my career” – “Long As I Got My Guitar”. Eight of the disc’s ten tracks are originals with seven being penned by Zac and label owner, executive producer, and bassist, Bob Trenchard; and one written by Zac and Corey Lacey.
On nine of those tracks, Zac Harmon – on lead guitar and vocals – is joined by Bob Trenchard on bass; Richy Puga on drums: Jimmy McGhee on guitar; and Dan Ferguson on keyboards. Collectively, they are known as The Rays. Appearing on the other track are Zac’s touring band: Chris Gipson on bass; Jamil Byron on drums; and Corey Lacey (on other tracks as well) on keyboards and background vocals. Other performers include SueAnn Carwell on background vocals and Munyungo Jackson on percussion.
Just hearing the name of the opening track kind of lets you know there isn’t much explaining to do here. The song is called “Deal With The Devil” and anyone who knows anything about blues folklore knows how that turned out. Musically, it’s a rhythm fueled blues rocker with Bob, Richy and Munyungo in a progressive groove on the percussion and Zac – who while flirting with a falsetto vocal style- nails a handful of stinging guitar licks. Nice opener.
Simply because of it is old school fifties style R&B type presentation, “Crying Shame” is surely one of my personal favorites. Everything about this toe tapping, head bobbing song just reeks of smoothness. Had I been seeing this one done live, I’d be stretching my neck looking all around the stage for the accordion player. Since none was credited, I’m just going to assume that Dan is baffling me with some masterful organ work.
Before I get to the real title of this one, its alias could very well be “The Axman’s Anthem”, and here’s why…..
“I had to pawn my watch, I had to pawn my ring;
I don’t care what time it is, it don’t mean a thing…
“I lost all my money, there went all my friends;
They didn’t care for me, it was all just pretend…
“They cut off my cable, and repossessed my car;
Knocked on my door, I can’t take it no more…
“But I’m still a star, ‘”Long As I Got My Guitar'”.
Now that you know some of the title song’s lyrics, it’s the song’s guitar work you really need to hear. After all, Zac still has his guitar and is still indeed a star.
“New Year’s Day” – it’s not just the song’s title but it’s a day that most of the world thinks will suddenly and magically change everything. Break it to them gently, Zac:
“It’s New Year’s Day and nothing’s changed;
everything remains the same.
I got no plans, I got no solution;
I got no New Year’s resolutions.”
And there you have it.
On the other hand, the song does make some cool musical changes: with Zac’s scorching guitar intro – and several times throughout the song as well – it’s got a strong traditional blues vibe; the soulful lead and backing vocals give it a definite soul blues vibe; and with the rhythm and percussion groove the rest of the band have going on you’ll surely feel the funk.
The disc closes out with a ballad on which Zac pretty much lays out his own epitaph. Wanting to be remembered for his good deeds more than his sins, since he won’t be passing this way again he’s requesting to scatter his “Ashes To The Wind”. From Zac’s somberly sung opening lines; to his mid song spoken words; to the songs powerful crescendo; and the addition of SueAnn’s heavenly sounding background voice, as well; this one is all about the vocals.
Other tracks on “Long As I Got My Guitar” include: “People Been Talking”; “Soul Land” (Sandy Carroll); “Love For You Baby”; “Waiting To Be Free” and “Imagine A Prayer” (Sandy Carroll & the album’s producer, Jim Gaines).
“The Blues Is My Passion And Therapy”
Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 “Keeping The Blues Alive” Award Recipient