MARTIN HARLEY AND DANIEL KIMBRO – Live at Southern Ground (Del Mundo)

MARTIN HARLEY AND DANIEL KIMBRO Live at Southern GroundA celebrated guitar virtuoso, acclaimed for his work on Weissenborn and slide, Welsh-born Harley met upright bassist Kimbro in Nashville and the pair heading off to Southern Ground Studios to lay down an album that would, in the former’s words, represent “where I’m at musically at the moment.” As such, as the title suggests, working with Weissenborn, resonator guitars and bass, the pair recorded a selection of tracks in a live setting, the material ranging across a variety of numbers from Harley’s career, given new textures and arrangements.

It kicks off with ‘Cardboard King’, Harley’s vocals bringing a country edge to the descending chords of the bluesy resonator picking before slipping into the choppy mid-tempo shuffle of ‘Winter Coat’. There’s three covers that underscore Harley’s blues roots, first up being a world-weary Weissenborn-accompanied reading of the Lead Belly chestnut ‘Goodnight Irene’, the second staying with the old guard for a frisky skip through Blind Willie Johnson’s ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ that introduces a dash of bluegrass, The third comes form a more contemporary blues man in the shape of a slide-driven, choppy rhythm take on Tom Waits’ ‘Chocolate Jesus’.

I say three covers, but if you leave the disc running for about three minutes after the tenth track, then you’ll discover what seems to be a variation of the stark traditional ‘Hello Blues’ featuring some spooky bass bowing from Kimbro and menacing slide as Harley slurs through the lyrics like a man with the weight of the world bearing down on his shoulders.

The other five numbers are all from Harley, ranging from the Mississippi style slide guitar blues ‘Can’t Help Moving’ and the resonator led blues swing ‘Money Don’t Matter’ to the cascading notes of the country-inflected ‘Automatic Life’, a nimbly fingerpicked, almost ragtime jellyroll ‘Honey Bee’ and the playful jazzily up-tempo ‘Love In The Afternoon’ (first featured, as were three other of the numbers here, on 2010’s Drumrolls for Somersaults and sounding much the same but without the drums) with Kimbro slapping bass and providing harmonies while Harley shows what Stephane Grapelli might sound like if he played guitar rather than fiddle. The pairing clearly works well, so here’s hoping this isn’t just a one off and next time round they might work together to produce some new material as well.

Mike Davies

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