New label, triple debut

When Swiss businessman/harmonica player Chris Harper decided to play the blues full time, he hooked up with Chicago music businessman/guitarist Dave Katzman and formed Swississippi Records, a project designed to highlight the connection between Harper’s native land and his attraction to Mississippi Delta blues. The label’s trio of debut releases includes CDs by Peaches Staten and Rob Blaine, plus Harper’s own Four Aces and a Harp, featuring him with four aces: guitarists Jimmy Burns and John Primer, bassist Robert Stroger and drummer Willie “Big Eyes” Smith—all Chicago bluesmen of long standing—on 18 songs that are half acoustic Delta blues and half electric Chicago blues. Harper’s an OK harpist but the real heart of the CD is when the “aces” kick in. Staten’s claim to fame seems to be that Live at Legends was the last album to be recorded at Buddy Guy’s Legends Chicago nightclub before it moved. Staten’s an earthy singer in the mold of Etta James and here provides a steady diet of pop/soul classics (including a powerful 10-minute version of James’ 1968 hit “I’d Rather Go Blind”) plus a handful of originals. On Big Otis Blues, Blaine (aka Big Otis) sings like he plays guitar: rough and hard, although he slows down for Don Nix’s “Same Old Blues” and an acoustic version of his own “Must Be Nice.”