||AMERICAN HARMONICA NEWSMAGAZINE
American Harmonica Newsmagazine
by Phil Lloyd
The Sugar Kings play those old time blues
The sound of the Sugar Kings is a mixture of Dixieland and ragtime and early blues with an homage to pre-war harmonica players thrown in for good measure on Take Your Time, Mr. Brown.
If you’re a pre-war harp fan, this CD is for you. Clint Hoover covers a Blues Birdhead song, two tunes by Jazz Gillum, and his own composition, Darling’s Dream, named after rag harmonica player Chuck Darling.
If you are unfamiliar with Clint Hoover’s harp work, expect the unexpected. Not only does he go back before World War II for his sources, his playing is informed by the same pioneers of the modern harp playing.
Clint has a playing style that virtually transcends the instrument, as we said before about Clint’s playing on his last CD. His playing offers a breath of fresh air that avoids the cliches of harp playing with its focus on the prewar sound.
The group itself of harp, guitar, and tuba might seem an unlikely combination but the interplay of the musicians forms a tight ensemble. While the focus here is on the remarkable harmonica playing of Clint Hoover, the stellar efforts on guitar by Cam Waters and Steve Sandberg’s tuba and trombone playing cannot be ignored and are an integral part of the overall sound.
As far as Hoover is concerned, he plays with a consistent greatness and continues to astound.
Probably the best test of a CD is that even after countless listenings the songs sound fresh and interesting, never predictable or plodding. Part of that is due to Clint’s eschewing what has come to be traditional blues riffs and fills represented by the later Chicago electric blues icons. But make no mistake, just because most of these tunes are pre-war, doesn’t diminish their power.
For openers, there is Papa’s on the House Top from Leroy Carr. the Ice Cream Man by Tom Waits, the traditional hokum blues song Furniture Man, and from Jazz Gillum, Gillum’s Windy Blues and Crazy About You. Booker White’s Fixin’ to Die, Fats Waller’s Sad Sap Sucker, and Blind Lemon Jefferson’s Bad Luck Blues.
Charlie Poole’s Leavin’ Home and even Blues Birdhead’s Get Up Off that Jazzophone, Darling’s Dream (Hoover’s homage to Chuck Darling), The Louis Jordan tune, Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t (Ma’ Baby), The Memphis Jug Band’s On The Road Again, and Gene Autry’s Bear Cat Mama and even Don Gibson’s Oh Lonesome Me.
Clint sings lead on three of the Sugar Kings CD tunes: Windy City Blues, Get Up Off That Jazzophone and Crazy about You. Cam Waters sings lead on the rest and Clint does the harmony/background.
The Sugar Kings play unique, lively arrangements of vintage acoustic blues, garage jazz, and original American music. Formed in late 1997, and winner of the 1998 Minneapolis Jug Band Contest, they released their first CD, Take Your Time, Mr. Brown, in early 2000.