Living Blues (p.37) - "Harris doesn't abandon his socially conscious role here...he inserts timely reference, both contemporary and borrowed from the folk tradition, to injustice and struggle..."
Audio Mixer: Andrew Seidel.
Photographer: Chris Whitley.
Corey Harris takes a decidedly anthropological and academic approach to the blues, deeply researching its variants and origins, even making several trips to Africa to trace out its DNA (resulting in the marvelous MISSISSIPPI TO MALI), but even as Harris thinks and connects dots like a scholar, when he gets down to playing the songs, he's all musician. That leads him to create some wonderful hybrids, and he seems to have settled home lately with a sound that seems more Jamaican than anything else. BLU. BLACK starts with the lovely "Blue" and ends with a juke joint blues called "Black," so it's obvious what terrain Harris is mapping out here. But in between he gently works in some Americanized roots reggae, some quiet storm-type ballads and odds and ends of other Afro-mixed musical ephemera, and amazingly, he does it with a calm, assured and extremely positive voice that is as welcome as it is vital. A winning singer, with an easy charm, Harris shines here on songs (most of them were co-written with keyboardist and producer Chris "Peanut" Whitley) like "King and Queen" (a duet with Davina Jackson), the straight-out-of-Kingston-sounding "Conquering Lion," the sunny skanking "Run Around Girl," and a moving, stark solo version of Burning Spear's "Columbus." It all goes down easy, and Harris' naturally positive tone makes this album yet another treat from this gifted musician.