Review: Harper- Worthenbury “Goin’ Up The Country” blues and roots club – Fri 19 Dec

Posted on: Friday, Dec 26, 2008

Harper at Worthenbury “Goin’ Up The Country” blues and roots club

Fri 19 December 2009

Harper at Worthenbury 2008

Australian harp and didgeridoo player Harper played his 1st ever UK gig in July 2007 at Worthenbury and it was a packed village hall that greeted him and his American band once again.

His young band of Marc Dixon on drums, Ralph Reitinger on bass and Mike Howe on lead guitar clearly show that they gig on average 250 times each year in the USA, so tight is their musicianship. This enables Harper who originally hails from Haslemere but was brought up in Perth before emigrating to Michigan a few years ago, to demonstrate the art of the didgeridoo and his fine harp playing and even more so, his superb soulful vocals.

Every track bar two was self penned and most came from his two Blind Pig recordings “Day By Day” and “Down To The Rhythm” and most introduce rhythms that Harper has absorbed whilst spending time with the Aborigines.

The first set opened with Sure there’s a Place an instrumental which gave the band the chance to get into the groove and was followed by a new song One Day and a track which was taken from “Day By Day” , Just What You’re Looking For which was a prize winning entry in the Sonic International Song Writing Competition and is being recorded by John Mayall on his forthcoming album.

The 2 didgeridoos are called Mary and Roger and they create an amazing effect as they start the rhythm which is then taken up by the rhythm section before the guitar keeps the momentum going. This was superbly demonstrated on the standout track “I’ll Go Home” which is tells of how the aborigines are always able to find their way home. A driving pulsating track in which guitarist Mike Howe suddenly took over the drums enabling Marc Dixon to continue the rhythm on a washboard. The track then segued into sections of “Not Fade Away” with audience clapping participation. Wonderful stuff.

The second set folowed the pattern of the opener with Harper in fine form especially in his stage chat, possibly fueled by some of the local real ale supplied by members of the north Wales Formation Drinking Team! The feature tracks were Big Brown Land again with superb didgeridoo taken from “Down To The Rhythm” , Give Me The Money
with great harmonica and the only cover of the night, Don Nix’s Going Back To Iuka in which Mike Howe gave a superb bluesy guitar solo.  Quite funny this as Harper explained that “Iuka is a small town in Mississippi that none of you will have heard of” – when four members of the audience announced that they had stayed there at the home of frequent UK visitors Eddie and Frank Thomas!

The set then finished with the long stirring aptly named Soul Food which featured each musician individually. The demand for an encore was long and loud and the band returned for the song that Harper dedicated to his favourite vocal group The Blind Boys of Alabama, the title track from the 1st Blind Pig recording, Down To The Rhythm.

It really was a magnificent night of great entertainment from four excellent musicians. Whilst there were only 5 dates on this tour, they will be returning in September next year for a longer UK tour so, promoters out there, get booking.




December 26th, 2008 at 10:24
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Thanks for the excellent review Pete. I heard from John Welsh that the Liverpool gig went equally well. John said that there were about 100 people there and that the gig was excellent.

Good coup gents. Thanks to all the Harper gig arrangers. Anyone who did not see the band this time, watch this space for some more UK dates in 2009.



December 28th, 2008 at 15:28
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The Harper gig at Fogherty’s function room in Liverpool was terrific. As Pete has described them, the band comprises three excellent musicians, who also exude warmth and good humour. Harper was superb in all respects – great vocals, brilliant harp playing and an impressive mastery of the didgeridoo. In addition, he is a very friendly guy who related really well to the audience. It was a marvellous gig to end another tremendous year of top class blues music in Liverpool. We are enormously blessed to have so much high quality performances in the region and I’m sure I speak for a host of people when I offer my sincere thanks to all the organisers of those events.