High Country Blues is the second glorious release by Harrison "Sweet Taste" Kennedy that's come to my attention within the last year. After hearing Voice Story on Black & Tan I enthused thusly: "the time is now to recognize Harrison Kennedy’s ascent to the front ranks of consummate acoustic bluesmen." Those gifts are in further abundant display on High Country Blues via Canada’s own Electro-Fi label. It’s nourishment for the soul. The time is due for homegrown recognition for this spectacularly-talented Hamilton, Ontario songster.
Sweet Taste Kennedy’s voice is an all-purpose one that goes beyond merely stretching out to reach and hold those notes. He also has an innate sense of drama that suffuses his bewitching lyrics with complete realism. By masterfully sliding from one mood to another with an ease only the greatest of bluesmen can approach, HK displays a force and presence that comes along infrequently.
On "Love Serenade," HK sounds as effervescently giddy as a child getting its first slice of chocolate cake, while the follow-up "Baby Boy" has a festive groove plus some great piano and guitar to boot courtesy of Keith Lindsay and Brian Griffith. The accompaniment is tasteful, yet understated, so major kudos to each member of the band for allowing an acoustic ambience to reign supreme.
The opening track "Let Me Call You" is a spirited request to a comely lady who’s casting her luscious spell Mr. Kennedy’s way and when Kennedy calls out "can I call you my precious girl?....well I love you, I love you..," this number betrays its transfixing power.
"High Country Blues" is a harmonica-infused blues that cries out "classic" by brimming with indisputable authenticity. It’s equally suffused with delta traditions. Next up is "Love Jones" about which I can’t say enough good things. But let’s start with the wry lyrics, gorgeous grooves, and the chillingly effective guitar/bass/organ accompaniment. Another instant Kennedy classic!
On "Don’t Set Your Mind To Worryin," Sweet Taste alters his supple voice into a falsetto pitch (shades of Canned Heat’s "Going Up The Country") and it fits so indelibly with the spirited nature of the song. As with all superior musicians, HK has an inherent sense of dynamics and approach (and great taste) to match his bountiful talents.
With 16 bewitching tracks there’s much to wax rapturous about, but space is limited. So I’ll just leave by saying the blues tradition is incredibly well-served by Harrison Kennedy. Buy this CD. It’ll wash your cares away in a blissful blues haze.