“an energized guitarist who stands tall next to both her progenitors and other women mining the same territory like Rory Block and Fiona Boyes. Plus, her voice is unique for its high register delivery, adding a richness and more contemporary take on the raw and randy songs of blues’ first generation of female shouters.”
This album is truly a product of the pandemic. It was recorded by Erin Harpe and her husband Jim Countryman under quarantine in their third floor apartment in Jamaica Plain, MA. Harpe has produced seven albums, three with her band, The Delta Swingers, and is a very eclectic artist trending towards traditional covers and similar originals. On her band’s 2017 Delta Swingers LP alone she covered everyone from Randy Newman and Slim Harpo to Tommy Johnson.
But in a 2017 interview she credited Countryman with channeling her muse, and here as a sequestered couple they walk the line with comfort zone standards by big-legged mamas from the 1920s and ‘30s: Sippie Wallace’s “Women Be Wise,” Memphis Minnie’s “What’s The Matter With The Mill,” Lucille Bogan’s “I Hate That Train Called The M&O,” and the more obscure Geeshy Wiley’s “Pick Poor Robin Clean.” Add to that the traditional blues of “Rollin’ And Tumblin’,” recorded by everyone from Muddy Waters to Canned Heat, and “When I Lay My Burden Down” redone by such disparate artists as Roy Acuff, The Byrds, and Ike and Tina Turner. Her four originals are solidly in the same pocket as blues cuts from the ‘20s and ‘30s, offering listeners a primer of the genre’s early blues belter styles.
Harpe learned her chops on guitar with her talented father and a list of seminal guitarists including Phil Cephas, John Wiggins, John Jackson, and Warner Williams at D.C.’s fabled Archie’s Barbershop. She’s an energized guitarist who stands tall next to both her progenitors and other women mining the same territory like Rory Block and Fiona Boyes. Plus, her voice is unique for its high register delivery, adding a richness and more contemporary take on the raw and randy songs of blues’ first generation of female shouters.
She ends this ten-cut recording with one of her four originals, “One Fine Day” which obliquely references humanity’s conundrum in this pandemic: “Maybe not tomorrow but one day soon we’ll be together one fine day.” In the meantime, she and her husband record within the safety of their third-floor walkup.
[originally published in Blues Music Magazine Issue #28 - Winter 2021, page 57]