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John Primer: Eighty-five albums; Two Grammy nominations. Impressive indeed! However, what’s even more impressive is that of that staggering number of recordings, there is not a bad one in the lot. Simply said, if I were to make a list of artists that in advance of hearing their new release, I’d already know I’d like it, the list would be short, and John Primer would be at the top. When it comes to straight up, real deal, traditional blues on a consistent basis, there is absolutely no one better. Amen.

Hard Times (produced, mixed and mastered by Rick Barnes), is John Primer’s latest release and as he says “The name of my new CD reflects the world we’re living in today. I recorded this CD to help us get through these really hard times.” For the project, John Primer – on lead guitar and vocals, is joined by The Real Deal Blues Band which is made up of Steve Bell on harmonica; Lenny Media on drums; and David Forte on bass. Additional special guests include Rick Kreher on rhythm guitar; Johnny Iguana on piano and organ; and Aliya Primer on vocals. The disc’s thirteen tracks are all John Primer originals.

The title track, “Hard Times”, features John offering his take on the pandemic and its lingering effect on life as we now know it. Fortunately, it hasn’t happened to him but a lot of what he addresses, such as lost jobs that never came back and people being evicted from their homes, sadly, is a reality for many. Musically, the profound groove the band is in is the perfect accompaniment for the song’s poignant lyrics.

Everything about “Blues – Blues – Blues” is quintessential John Primer. From the way he belts out those opening three words that make up the title of the song, to his straight up, in your face Chicago blues guitar licks totally defines why everyone who knows him knows him as the real deal. Lyrically, the song contains a line that outside of the blues community may be the most misunderstood thing ever said – “The blues makes you happy when you are feeling said”. Musically, John’s slide guitar work is masterful; Lenny and David are in the perfect slow blues groove; and Steve and Johnny are laying down several nice harmonica and piano leads.

From a musical standpoint, “Chicago” could easily be the perfect song to accompany the city’s tourism touting TV ads. How could any fan of the blues resist hearing John Primer telling you that “Chicago is his favorite blues sound, it has the best musicians around”? It’s got me wanting to go back. It’s a rhythm fueled smoker with killer blues guitar licks.

From the “I must be getting old” file…..
Knowing John and Lisa Primer for as long as I have, I recall seeing Lisa at various blues events around the country way back when she was pregnant. Of course, in the years that followed, I also remember seeing the proud parents – with Aliya in tow – at some of those same events. Now, here I sit telling you about how that child has blossomed into a young lady of seventeen with an absolutely beautiful voice. This song, which she co-wrote with John and Lisa, is titled “Tough Times” and it features Aliya Primer making her recording debut. Melodically and vocally sound, Aliya comes off like a seasoned pro as she advises us that in order to get through these tough times we need to “stick together, stay strong and keep on moving on”. Of course, the band is killing it as well, but I’m keeping this one all about Aliya. This is from the mouth, and heart, of poppa…..”I am so proud of my baby girl, Aliya. This is her first of many recordings to come. Her future is so bright and I love working with her and watching her get better and better”. I’m looking very forward to it, John…..and Aliya!

With lyrics like: “You’re my life baby….you mean the whole world to me”; “You’re my sunshine in the daytime, you’re my moonlight in the night”; “You are my sweet honey, you’re my cup of tea”; “You Mean So Much To Me” has to be a dedication to Lisa. With Lenny and David all over the rhythm behind them, this one’s highlighted by John, Steve and Johnny in a three-way slug fest on the guitar, harmonica and piano.

“Hot Meal” is nearly eight minutes of slow blues and by now, those of you who regularly read my reviews know I really don’t even have to say much more than that. In three words, “It’s mandatory listening”.

Sounding a bit like something John’s old boss Muddy Waters would say, “Whiskey” opens with “I drink my whiskey when I want to get drunk, smoke my reefer when I want to get high”. That said, with the extended “lock me in and throw away the key” musical grooves the band is in before, in the middle of and after the chorus style lyrics, I’d have been happy with this being a very long instrumental.

Other tracks on Hard Times, which I’ll go on record as saying should be a shoo-in at various 2023 blues awards ceremonies, include: “You Got What I Want”; “Don’t Wait Too Long”; “I Won’t Sweat It”; “All Alone”; “My Sugar Mama” and “Trying To Make You Mine”.

If you’ve not yet received a copy of “Hard Times” for airplay, please email Lisa Becker Primer at – lbeckerconsulting1@gmail.com – and to find out more about John Primer and Blues House Productions, just go to – www.johnprimerblues.com – and – www.blueshouseproductions.com – Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro

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