Living Blues Review SUPER CHIKAN & TERRY HARMONICA BEAN From Hill Country Blues to Mississippi Delta Blues


Wolf Records’ outstanding new release From Hill Country Blues to Mississippi Delta Man was born in 2018 when Nicola and Hannes Foterbauer traveled to the United States. The duo visited Mississppi with the intent of recording local blues artists. One musician chosen for the project was Pontotoc, Mississippi’s Terry “Harmonica’ Bean. With the help of Living Blues editor, Brett Bonnet the Folterbauer´s were able to contact Bean and Clarksdale-based James “Super Chikan” Johnson. The Folterbauers proceeded to record each musician at his respective home. The result is a collection of beautifully unadorned performances that are far more spontaneous and free flowing than anything produced in a bigname studio. The contrast between Bean’s and Johnson’s styles makes for compelling listening. Of the two musicians, Johnson is the more extraverted performer. Like his stunning handmade guitars. Johnson’s music is colorful and meant to draw a crowd. Tracks like Tin Top Shack and Wavy Thoughts showcase Johnson’s warm vocals and a seamless mix of chords and slide guitar licks. Johnson’s Tribute to Jonny Reed features a dead on impression of the late Reed’s vocal style that manages to be both playful and reverent at the sane time. Hug Me, Don’t Bug Me (Drugs is Already Bugging Me) contains some of Johnson’s most impressive fretwork. He transitions effortlessly from floating chords to deft single note runs.

In true Hill Country tradition, Bean’s style of blues is dark and mesmerizing. On Leaving Blues, Bean’s sparse guitar riffs and piercing harmonica cast a spell. Where Johnson is squarely focused on playing to the listener. Bean’s rough vocals and propulsive guitar rlythms sound as if he’s exorcising a few personal demons through music. The tempo slows on Mississippi Walking Blues, but the smoky Juke Joint atmosphere is as thick as ever. Even with minimal amplification, Bean´s biting guitar tone will give listeners goosebumps.

Wolf Records deserves much respect for presenting the music of two underappreciated bluesmen in a setting that’s natural and free of gratuitous overproduction. From Hill Country Blues to Mississippi Delta Blurs presents the blues as it is still played. and lived. in Mississippi today.

—Ion Kleinman

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