Blues Bytes


September 2010

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Mitch Kashmar & the Pontiax
100 Miles To Go
Delta Groove Records

Mitch Kashmar

Mitch Kashmar is a familiar name to blues harmonica fans, having established himself as one of the most imaginative players in recent years, as well as being an outstanding vocalist. But way back in the late ’70s, he was just getting his start in the business around the Santa Barbara area. In 1980, he formed his own group, The Pontiax, and they performed throughout Santa Barbara and the Southern California area.

In the mid ’80s, the group moved to Los Angeles and began to build a following, eventually leading to the opportunity to back up blues legends like Albert Collins, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Pee Wee Crayton, Luther Tucker, Lowell Fulson, and Big Joe Turner. Around this time, the group released an album, called 100 Miles To Go, for a Belgian label, Blue Sting Records, and went out on the road, expanding their fan base with tours throughout Canada, Europe, and the South Pacific. Kashmar eventually left the group to pursue a solo career in the late ’90s, making it big after signing with Delta Groove Music in 2005.

Recently, Delta Groove decided to reissue Kashmar’s debut recording with the Pontiax. One listen to the disc shows the band was adept at several different styles of blues, ranging from Texas shuffles, to Chicago Blues, to Jump Blues, to Swamp Blues, even throwing Jazz and Boogie Woogie into the mix.

Kashmar wrote all but three of the original ten tracks and shows that he had the knack even then, with catchy tunes like “Night Creeper,” the swinging title cut, and the cover of “Gonna Find Someone New,” a soulful track that features a super smooth vocal. Other standouts include “Walkin’ Downtown” and “Let It All Fall Dead.” He also plays some smoking harmonica on a dandy pair of instrumentals, the hectic “Lip Service,” and “Horn of Plenty,” a fiery harp duel with fellow West Coast harmonica ace, William Clarke.

While the entire original album is a treat, the biggest surprise of the disc is the two bonus cuts recorded this year, teaming Kashmar with the original Pontiax (Bill Flores – guitar/tenor sax; Jack Kennedy – bass; Tom Lackner – drums; Jim Calire – piano/tenor sax). “When You Do Me Like That” and “Petroleum Blues” both show that the band hasn’t lost that rapport that shines through on the 25-year-old recordings that preceded it.

Kashmar took a sabbatical from his solo career back in 2008, and most recently toured with the ’70s funk/rock band War. He also appeared with War and Eric Burdon for a reunion concert that same year. 100 Miles To Go will provide fans with some product as they wait for him to return to the blues recording scene. It’s great to have this available once again, and to a wider audience than previously.

--- Graham Clarke
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