Blues Bytes


July 2009

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Larry Garner
Here Today Gone Tomorrow
DixieFrog Records

Larry Garner

After an eight year absence from the recording studio, Larry Garner has released Here Today Gone Tomorrow on DixieFrog Records, a European label. For those of us who treasure Garner’s unique perspective of the blues, it’s been too long between discs, in part due to his recovery from heart surgery a couple of years ago. Thankfully, there’s plenty to enjoy on his latest effort.

Garner’s music has always been rooted in the swamp blues of Louisiana. Artists like Silas Hogan, “Guitar” Kelley, and Rudy Richard (former guitarist for Slim Harpo) were big influences on his musical approach, while songwriters like Curtis Mayfield and Bob Dylan influenced his lyrics. As a result, his blues take a look back with their musical approach, but the lyrical content is definitely set in the here and now, covering topics that are very familiar to the average Joe. Most of his songs will invoke a knowing nod from listeners who have “been there, done that,” which adds to his appeal.

Here Today Gone Tomorrow’s highlights include “Bull Rider,” a tune about a member of one of Garner’s audiences that proves you can’t judge a book by its cover, the perceptive title track, a tune made more meaningful given Garner’s recent brush with mortality, and “Heavy Pieces,” an anthem of sorts for folks picking up the pieces of their life, with Garner encouraging them to “leave the heavy ones alone” when putting their lives back together.

There’s also “For You Mr. King,” a tribute to B. B. King, and a redo of “Keep Singing The Blues,” which features an amazing, sometimes hilarious monologue describing Garner’s tense encounter with a young music lover that will surely have blues fans smiling and nodding in agreement, while “Raised In The Country” will have them exuberantly singing along.

The lone cover on the disc is Muddy Waters’ “Champagne and Reefer,” but there’s also a video program (playable on computer) of Garner and band playing the Henry Gray classic, “Cold Chills,” from a 2003 gig in Paris.

In a bit of a variation from previous Larry Garner releases, there are a few guest stars present on Here Today Gone Tomorrow. The guests are either based in the Baton Rouge area (guitarists Rudy Richard, Elvin Killerbee, and Jared Daigle, harmonica player Oscar “Harpo” Davis) or have roots there (piano man Henry Gray and Buckwheat Zydeco). In many cases, guest stars on albums end up dominating the proceedings. In this case, the guests are as familiar with Larry Garner’s style as Garner himself, so they complement him rather than overpowering him.

It’s been too long since we were blessed with a new Larry Garner release. Still, it’s only a partial blessing, as the disc has been harder to find stateside than a leftover cheeseburger in Charles Barkley’s kitchen. It’s a shame because, clearly, Here Today Gone Tomorrow ranks with his best releases and it deserves to be heard. Seek this one out at all costs.

--- Graham Clarke


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