Vernon Ray Harrington

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Vernon Ray Harrington

Postby blueswriter » Thu Aug 05, 2010 11:31 pm

Vernon Ray Harrington
West Side Blues
Atomic H2 (2009) AH2CD-002


10 tracks, 30 minutes. Good. Vernon Ray Harrington certainly has a background in blues. His father Houston Harrington, a minister, ran the Atomic H record label out of his basement in the 1960s and recorded Eddie Clearwater, early in his career, among others. Vernon is also related to the Bell family, consisting of the late harmonica ace Carey Bell and guitarist Lurrie Bell. However, it was Vernon’s uncle, Earnest, who was responsible for lighting the blues fire in Vernon’s soul by bringing Magic Sam to the family’s house to play. For his maiden outing, West Side Blues, Vernon chose a good cross-section of material to cover and sprinkled in four originals. You Did Me Wrong, Lottery Blues, Crackhead Woman and Help Me With The Bills show him to be a solid songwriter. However, the covers he settled on all display his lack of range as a vocalist. The classic versions of Guitar Slim’s The Things I Used To Do, Magic Sam’s Out Of Bad Luck, Rickey Allen’s Cut You Loose and Freddy King’s Tore Down all had one very important thing in common, and that was vocal prowess. As a singer, Vernon struggles and, more often than not, fails to reach notes that simply aren’t in his range. Another miscue lies with the band; they are constantly playing ahead of the beat and not behind it. That‘s an integral part of playing blues that develops with maturity and time, and it‘s clear that with more hours in the woodshed these guys will have that maturity. Although it’s not apparent who takes the lead guitar chores between Vernon and Tony Bagby, there are some nice fills and strong solos throughout the disc. Billy Branch appears as a guest and blows some fine harp on a few songs, adding flavor. Here’s hoping Vernon Ray Harrington and his band get back to work. The right elements are here, they just need some polishing before the shine comes through.

© 2010 by Craig Ruskey
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