Zac Harmon - From the Root Reviews

 

From the Root

 

"Zac Harmon grew up around the Farish Street region of Jackson, MS, where he was exposed to the sounds of artists like Sam Myers, Mel Brown, and Jesse Robinson. He learned to sing, play guitar and keyboards while at church and eventually served as guitarist for Z. Z. Hill, Dorothy Moore, McKinley Mitchell, and Myers. He also taught guitar to youngsters (including Eddie Cotton) at the local YMCA.

"Harmon eventually relocated to Los Angeles, working as a studio musician and serving as a writer/producer for many R&B artists like Freddie Jackson, the Whispers, the OíJays, and the Mississippi Mass Choir. Several years ago, he decided to return to his first love, the blues, and his band, the Mid-South Blues Revue, won the 2004 International Blues Challenge. His 2005 release,
The Blues According to Zacariah, was a well-received effort that showcased Harmonís myriad influences.

"Harmonís most recent release,
From The Root (NorthernBlues Music), is a smooth mix of blues, rock, and soul. The opening cut, Donít Give Me Another Reason, is a capsule summary of the disc, with its muscular rock-edged blues guitar and funky backbeat. Fannie Mae is a roadhouse blues rocker featuring Jimmy Zís frenzied harmonica. Tracks like this and Keep The Blues Alive and Honey Bee feature rock-based blues, while songs like Scratch and Man Is Not Meant To Be Alone feature a more traditional approach. Harmon proves to be adept going in either direction.

"The remainder of the disc focuses on soul/blues, with winning tracks like
Back Bitiní Back Stabbers, which sounds like a lost Malaco track, The Price of Loving You, featuring Sueann Carwell, and soul numbers like The Older Woman and Thatís What A Woman Needs (spiced up with a reggae beat), that feature Harmonís silky-smooth vocals. Also featured is a terrific cover of the Honey Coneís Want Ads.

"Zac Harmon is the total package. Heís a great songwriter, guitarist, and singer, plus heís equally at home playing downhome blues or Southern soul, which makes him equally appealing to two different blues fan bases. By all rights,
From The Root should be a breakthrough album for him."

-Graham Clarke
Blues Bytes
July, 2009 

 
   

"Root(s), adjectives, by definition is 1). genuine: genuine or real; 2). down-to-earth: practical, sensible and realistic: 3). original: existing first, from the beginning or before other people or things.

"Zac Harmonís latest endeavor,
From The Root, could be defined as just that - genuine, down-to-earth, original. It reaches back to the very foundation upon which the Blues was built. So aptly referring to the Blues as 'American classical music', Zac has resurrected that old-school sound but stamped it with his own signature style. One pleasant surprise is Thatís What A Woman Needs with a bit of Caribbean essence. Zac is a specialist at ballads and The Price Of Loving You and Smile On Your Face are destined to become classics. On one of his previous endeavors, Zac recognized 'the Full Figured Woman'. On this CD, he pays homage to The Older Woman. Soulful and sensuous, these tunes are geared toward all of the ladies and his buttery smooth vocals will have them swooning to no end. Songs such as Hattie Mae, Honey Bee and Scratch are more traditional but with his own special twist to them. Since You Been Gone shows off his Blues-rocker side with superb guitar riffs. Donít Give Me Another Reason, Back Bitiní Back Stabbers, Enough and Want Ads are chock full of tasty R&B and Soul. And Keep The Blues Alive pretty much sums up his passion. But itís the final tune that will catch your attention. Man Is Not Meant To Be Alone is a laid-back, acoustic melody that will acquaint folks with his more temperate side.

"Zac Harmonís time machine has transported us, the listener, back to the smoky juke joint, the steamy blue-lights-in-the-basement and the serenity of the back porch. And as a musician/singer/songwriter/producer, Zac is on a mission. He treasures the fact that once the Blues seed is planted and nurtured, the roots dig way down deep into the very core, the very heart, the very depths of your Blues soul. This CD is his way of reminding you know of that."

-Serena James
Central Iowa Blues Society
June, 2009 

 
   

"Generations come together seamlessly when the blues reaches out as eloquently as on Zac Harmon's newest album. Original songs from the leader and from several of his band mates recall the kind of passion that grew out of the Mississippi Delta long ago and spread through Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and other parts of the world.

"From Jackson, Mississippi, the bluesman settled in L.A. nearly 30 years ago and has continued to bring folks together with his music. The lyrics point to issues that concern everyone at some time or other: love and marriage, loneliness, making things work out. He pumps a lot of soul into each selection, creating moods that appeal to the senses.

"Harmon's blazing guitar carves out a message on
Scratch that says as much as the lyrics do. He colors his blues program with B-3 organ sounds, rollicking drums and a strong bass foundation. Hattie Mae features an adventurous harmonica romp from Jimmy Z and The Price of Loving You includes a lovely cameo vocal from Sueann Carwell.

"
Honey Bee, Man Is Not Meant to Be Alone and Keep the Blues Alive stand out as the best selections on Harmon's program, drawing more from century-old roots for their inspiration than from the larger body of popular music."

-Jim Santella
Southland Blues Magazine
June, 2009 

 
   

"Zac Harmonís impressive credentials placed him solidly in the blues of his Mississippi heritage with early stints as guitarist for Z.Z Hill, Dorothy Moore, McKinley Mitchell and Sam Myers, among others. Conversely, as a Los Angeles studio musician and writer/producer in the 80ís and 90ís, he widened his horizon by working with mainstream popular groups and produced songs for Black Uhuru that received a Grammy nomination in 1994. In 2002, his first CD Live at Babe & Rickyís Inn got notice on the blues scene and his next CD The Blues According to Zacariah in 2005 solidified his standing in the Mississippi blues sound. This latest effort pulls all those experiences together and captures the spontaneity of his live shows with an eclectic mix of styles...

"...Hold on tight -Zac Harmon will rock your socks off with this CD [
From the Root]!"

-Dorothy L. Hill
BluesSource.com
June, 2009 

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"I have to say that Zac Harmonís new record, From the Root, was well worth the wait. It was my pleasure to sit in Zacís truck and listen to a rough mix of this disc during his last time through Phoenix and Iíve been looking forward to its release. Pushed to the limit by producer/friend/former guitarist BR Millon, Zacís first release for NorthernBlues had me up out of my seat and dancing in my living room. Keep in mind that Zachariah is definitely a lover, not a fighter, and From the Root showcases him at his smooth talking absolute best. So letís get on with it...

"...At 14 songs and just over 66 minutes in length,
From the Root, is definitely a long record but Zachariah had a lot to say. Kudosí to BR Millon for pushing Zac to showcase some of the finest guitar playing heís ever done and thanks to all of the players behind him who made this record the disc that it is. Zac Harmon embraces his soul blues roots on this disc, and From the Root definitively shows that heís learned his lessons well."

-Kyle Deibler
Blues Bytes
June, 2009 

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"It has been our pleasure to know Zac Harmon since his victory in the 2004 IBC for Best Unsigned Band, leading to his Best New Artist Blues Award in 2006. With his first set for Northern Blues, From The Root, Zac continues with the things that have gotten him where he is today---not afraid to take a chance and do some things a little different within the context of the blues.

"Zac was born and raised in Jackson, MS, and left for Los Angeles in 1980. While there, he became an in-demand session player and an accomplished writer and producer, working with popular acts of the day, such as The Whispers and Evelyn 'Champagne' King. The blues of his homeland was in his soul, tho, and a sponsorship from a local blues society led him to his victory in Memphis in '04.

"On this set, Zac is reminding all of us that the blues is the root of many varied musical styles, and he dutifully recreates a mix of those styles herein. There is soul-blues, a touch of funk, hill-country blues, and even a bit of reggae, mon!!

"Check out the smooth groove of the love song
Smile On Your Face, and the punchy funk of Back Bitin' Back Stabbers. The pain of two lovers is evident in Zac's delivery on The Price Of Lovin' You. And, that touch of reggae drives the tale of how to please the fairer sex in That's What A Woman Needs. Hattie Mae is a straight-out hill-country stomper, while Zac's acoustic lead work sets the tone for the closing Man Is Not Meant To Be Alone. And, many a man knows the distinct advantages of The Older Woman, done up in a breezy, soulful-Seventies style.

"We had two favorites, too. A
Crossroads riff moves the story of that real fine woman in Honey Bee, while Zac's red-hot lead lines fuel the story of his 'itch' that needs just the right woman to Scratch me, baby!!

"Zac Harmon is truly a man of many talents. And, he understands that,
From The Root, many good things come to fruition!!"

-Don Crow
Music City Blues
June 2009 

 
   

"Not many newer blues artists can boast of the career Zac Harmon had before he came to record and faithfully pursuing a career in the blues scene. Noted for his writing/production/studio musicianship in the studios of Los Angeles in 80s, Harmon laid all that down to return to the sounds of his home of Jackson, Mississippi in 2004 when he won the International Blues Challenge. Now, Harmon is lauded for his multi-dimensional but always faithful approach to blues music around the country at festivals. Harmon is also one in only a handful of young African-Americans playing straight ahead blues out there today. Harmon returns here after 4 years of recorded silence with his first release for Northern Blues.

"Harmon kicks off the album with Albert King soul/blues styled strength on guitar on
Don't Give Me Another Reason. His guitar chops reminiscent of the master of the Flying V and his vocals are powerhouse, spot on. He switches gears into Mississippi Juke Joint jump with Hattie Mae. Special guest Jimmy Z honks too many notes on harmonica in the background as his solo turns into a bit of shark-frenzy sloppiness, with the only blemish I see to the track. Then, Harmon kicks it in the ass with hard-edge, knife chop of a blues-rocker Since You Been Gone. Harmon's slicing guitar work here is powerful and stands out as a shining point on the disc.

"From there, Harmon turns into a southern fried soul man. Most of the tunes on the rest of the album outside of two or three sound like they're directly from the Southern Fried Chitlin Circuit Soul crowd. The southern soul funker
Back Bitin' Back Stabbers, The Older Woman, a very faithful cover of the Honey Cone's Want Ads, and the beautiful soul duet with Sueann Carwell The Price of Lovin' You will definitely be a cross over into the adult R&B crowds' radio. Harmon's sanctified church vocal influence really comes through on this, as his abilities as a vocalist are top notch.

"Fear not blues fans - Harmon did not abandon you! The war chant for many Blues Foundation followers
Keep the Blues Alive will become a theme song. The copped Cream Crossroads riff on the rockin' blues of Honey Bee and the funky blues bounce of Scratch are all deeply seeded in traditional blues without sounding too old and dusty. Harmon's knack with his traditional blues material is that he sounds very contemporary, fresh, new, and exotic. He doesn't mind adding some studio polish or a piece from modern R&B or funk from here and there to keep blues reaching his audience. However, traditionalists fear not, as well, because he does tread the traditional ground quite well. The final track with special guests New Blues is downhome acoustic backporch blues caleld Man Is Not Meant To Be Alone. For you traditional folks, this will be a welcome addition to Harmon's catalog. For those lovers of his other material, this will be a fine introduction of modern acoustic blues Zac Harmon style.

"He's got the chops. He's got the voice. He wrote or co-wrote every song on the disc. He was the executive producer. He's here to stay. Harmon is also an energy-packed, dynamic performer. Couple all these things together along with his Farish Street roots and you've got a contemporary bluesman powerhouse packing in fans from all sides to keep the blues alive, as he says."

-Ben the Harpman
Juke Joint Soul
June, 2009 

 
   

"Straight up blues pleasure as this guitar slinger recalls the rootsy days of rock into blues, except heís approaching it from the source, not the other way around. A full on assault of old school meets youngblood, Harmon is a powerful player that delivers the goods to anyone that has enjoyed anything between Clapton and Cray. Hard hitting throughout and always on the ball, this is the real deal for modern blues fans."

-Midwest Record
June, 2009 

 
   

"If you like your blues with a side of sexy soul, the new release from Zac Harmon From The Root, is a must have for your music collection. Such a dynamic and mesmerizing live performer can easily fall short in transferring those qualities to a recording, but Harmon has managed to capture both the energy of his guitar playing and the sexy, charismatic quality of his silky vocals on this disc.

"His talents as a guitarist and vocalists are matched equally by his songwriting prowess. Zac wrote or co-wrote 13 of the 14 tunes on this CD. Nowhere in the liner notes is the title
From The Root explained, but it seems obvious Harmonís blues are driven from that most basic humans need - love.

"And many kinds of love, at that.

"The song
Keep The Blues Alive reminds us of what a labor of love it is to play the Blues. Taught early on as a boy by a 'real blues man' how to play the blues, he was offered sage advice: 'He said you ainít gonna make no money, whatever you gotta do to survive, just keep the blues alive.'

"Thereís plenty Zac has to say about romantic love as well. This man literally makes women swoon with his velvety vocals, so itís practically an obligation for him to let the ladies know what heís thinking and play fair by sharing his secrets with the guys as well. Two songs that accomplish both on the CD are
Thatís What A Woman Needs and The Older Woman, each song confirming Harmonís love and respectfulness for womanhood.

"Not that he hasnít been scarred by love. The opening track,
Donít Give Me Another Reason finds Harmon the masochistic lover - lamenting his misfortune of choosing the wrong love with lines like ĎIf I ever lose a good thing, it wonít be because of losing youí and ĎHard times fell on me when I fell upon youí. Like that cigarette we know we shouldnít light up or the last gin and tonic weíll regret when the alarm goes off the next morning, love has such a delicious seductive pain, itís addictive in an often soul destroying way. But then again, thatís the blues, isnít it?

"
Back Bitiní Back Stabbers tells the story of his lying woman Mary and his Ďfriendí Bobby, who he really thought could be trusted. Nothing like a mate who loves you and a good friend you can count on to make you think you are finally getting a storybook ending. But the blues come creeping in again: betrayal by the ones you are the closest to, the ones you think you can rely on most.

"Yet itís human nature to seek the warmth of the very flame that burns us.
Scratch is a primal, sexy ode to, well, scratching that itch if you know what I mean. Harmon is at his seductive best here - if you can listen to this song and not feel the itch, seek medical attention - something is wrong with you!

"You cannot listen to Zac Harmon and not feel the power of the blues. His blues come
From The Root and bloom like a mighty multi-branched tree of the genre, bringing the music proudly into the new millennium."

-Blue Lisa
KNON Big Texas Blues
April, 2009