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Big news for Mark Hummel before he blows out of town

Tahoe Onstage

Mark Hummel will return to Squaw Valley’s Bluesdays this summer for the sixth-straight year. His band has four Blues Music Awards nominations.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Mark Hummel and his Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue have an invitation to Memphis for the Blues Music Awards, but before that the bluesmen will head in a totally different direction.

Hummel’s Ultimate Harmonica Blowout Tour Jan. 20-29 from Oakland to Seattle will feature music that is a departure from traditional blues. Besides Hummel, the harmonica players are Howard Levy, Corky Siegel, Jason Ricci and Son of Dave.

“It’s definitely going to be one of the most adventurous shows I’ve ever done,” Hummel said. “It’s very out of the genre. It’s going to be all over the map.”

On Monday, Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue players learned they have four Blues Music Award nominations. The winners will be announced May 11 in Memphis. The band, which formed in 2012 with players from California and Texas, was nominated for Band of the year and Traditional Album, Hummel was nominated for Instrumentalist-Harmonica and R.W. Grigsby for Instrumentalist-Bass.

Tahoe Onstage

R.W. Grigsby of the Golden State Lone Star Revue.
Photo by Clare Foster

Hummel hopes the band will attend the 38th annual BMAs at the Cook Convention Center. If it performs, the blues community might be surprised to not see guitarist Little Charlie Baty, who played with Hummel for nearly six years. Little Charlie released a solo album last year and his exit from the Golden State Lone Star Revue was expected. He will be replaced by keyboardist Chris Burns, a former member of the California Honeydrops. Burns has previously played Hummel, appearing on the 2007 album “Retroactive.”

The band will now have a single guitarist, Anson Funderburgh.

“It’s not a totally different sound, it’s just not guitar mania,” said Hummel, who also broke some blues news for Lake Tahoe-area music fans – his band will perform for the sixth-straight year at Bluesdays, Tuesday, Sept. 5, at The Village at Squaw Valley.

A reason for the Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue’s tight sound is that the players know each other so well. Grigsby and drummer Wes Starr began playing together when they were in high school at Rome, Georgia, and Starr has been with Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets since the early 1980s.

Hummel has received half-dozen BMA Instrumentalist nominations in his career. This is the first for Grigsby, who has played with Hummel for 10 years. Hummel praised Grigsby, a Sacramento resident, for his musicianship on both bass guitar and upright bass, songwriting and roadwork.

“He can drive six to eight hours without a lot of stops,” he said. “I have a great rhythm section. To me, Wes Starr is just the end all, be all of drummers. He should have been nominated, too.”

Four of the five members of the Golden State Lone Star Revue will be on the Ultimate Harmonica Blowout Tour. Instead of Funderburgh, the guitarist will be Duke Robillard, a household name to blues fans.

The harmonica players are an eclectic bunch.

A two-time Grammy Award winner, Howard Levy played with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones and has collaborated with esteemed Arab fusion and Latin jazz greats, as well as American stars Paul Simon and Donald Fagen.

Hummel was humbled when he listened to Levy.

“Most people have heard him — whether they know it or not — on commercials and soundtracks,” Hummel said. “The first time I heard him he was playing piano with one hand and accompanying himself with harmonica on the other, and he was playing in every single key.”

Hummel described both Levy and Ricci as virtuosos.

“Howard and Jason Ricci are probably two of the best overblowing harmonica players,” Hummel said. “Overblows are when you bend every single note. You basically can play all of the chromatic scales on a diatonic harmonica.”

Like Levy, Corky Siegel also plays blues piano. He began recording in 1964 with guitarist Jim Schwall. Siegel was the first to play blues backed by an orchestra – the Chicago Symphony – in 1968. The duo later recorded with the San Francisco Symphony.

Son of Dave usually performs as a one-man band. He won a Grammy Award in the 1990s as a member of the folk-rock group Crash Test Dummies. Blues is not foreign to the native of Canada. He was inspired to play harmonica after seeing performances by James Cotton and Sonny Terry.

Related story: Ten BMA nominations for Sugar Ray and the Bluetones. LINK

  • Mark Hummel’s Ultimate Harmonica Blowout Tour
    Mark Hummel, Duke Robillard, Jason Ricci, Corky Siegel, Howard Levy and Son of Dave
    Jan. 20 – Yoshi’s, Oakland
    Jan. 21 – Harris Center for the Arts, Folsom
    Jan. 22 – Moe’s Alley, Santa Cruz
    Jan. 24 – Alberta Rose Theatre, Portland
    Jan. 25 – The Shedd, Eugene
    Jan. 26-28 – Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, Seattle

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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