Blues means what milk does to a baby. Blues is what the spirit is to the minister. We sing the blues because our hearts have been hurt, our souls have been disturbed.

- Alberta Hunter

Smithsonian Folkways Releases "Classic Harmonica Blues", Exploring the American Musical Identity

Classic Harmonica BluesPopularized in the late 19th century by German clockmaker Matthias Hohner, the harmonica has shaped the personality, sound, and form of American music like few other instruments. Although adopted by various genres, the instrument became an essential part of the blues, particularly benefiting those marginalized by race, class, or geography. By manipulating the instrument in ways never originally intended, blues harmonica players create an expressiveness similar to that of the guitar, the other instrument central to the blues form.

Sneak Preview: Listen to selections from Classic Harmonica Blues from Smithsonian Folkways:

Compiled, produced, and annotated by Barry Lee Pearson and Jeff Place, Classic Harmonica Blues from Smithsonian Folkways (out 5/21) is the 21st album in the acclaimed Classic series. The 20-track set features harmonica luminaries such as Doctor Ross, Eddie Burns, Jazz Gillum, and Sonny Terry, and blues classics such as "Good Morning Little School Girl," "Sweet Home Chicago," and "One Way Out."

The collection spans six decades and encompasses several stylistic categories and geographic regions — including jug band, Piedmont, and Midwestern styles. Classic Harmonica Blues also includes eight previously unreleased recordings from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival dating back as far as 1977.


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