Renaissance men are not born, they are made. That can also be said when it comes to describing Corey Harris, who is a “seasoned” musician to say the very least. While, always having a penchant for mixing blues, reggae, folk, and countless other sub-genres into his sound, Harris got some due exposure on Martin Scorsese’s PBS series The Blues and even explempified his passion to explore the connections between African music and the blues by traveling to the dark continent and releasing a collection of field recordings on 2003’s magnificent Mississippi to Mali. Now, on his seventh release, Daily Bread, Harris showcases his knack for some island music mixed together with musical styles that showcase his true wholeheartedness for doing what it is that he does.
Harris flaps his rootsy Americana wings on parts of Daily Bread whereas the title track has an iota of an Appalachian palpitation to it with some lucent banjo plucking and old-timey fiddle bridges. If you in the mood for a jubilant number, look no further than the Rusted Root stringiness meets two-tone ska readiness of “Got to be a Better Way”.
Of course an artist doesn’t become as eclectic without proper influences, and what better way to honor them than to do a couple of covers. Harris pays respect to the smooth reggae soul man John Holt with his version of “I See Your Face,” which glides along with the slowed-down vibe of Jamaican lover’s rock. The shamefully neglected nature of roots reggae great Sylford Walker is moved aside as Harris covers his forgotten single “Lambs Bread” with a militant strut and a sunny Caribbean breeze. If you go further down south from the islands, you will find yourself in South America and it shows on the flute tinged “Just in Time.” Harris sings with a soulful and saccharine voice not heard since Marvin Gaye, with a bossa nova flourishing that could emulate the sound of the Motown label, had it moved its headquarters from Detroit to Rio in the early seventies.
Of course let us not forget that Harris is also a guitar man at heart and shines with his aptitude for Southern sounds on the loungy blues of “A Nickel and A Nail.” He also goes instrumental with his strings on the on the psychedelic Afro-Cuban groove of “Khaira.”
Avant-garde jazz great Olu Dara, the man who Harris calls “Pops,” sits in on two tracks. Dara throws in a cool jazz and mariachi trumpet hybrid as Harris resonates pure radiance with his African juju flow on “Mami Wata.” The tune itself is tantamount to a spoken word piece, Harris’s use of water being a metaphor into the concepts of life that will strike a chord with all Afro-jazz lovers familiar with Fela Kuti’ poetry on “Water No Get Enemy.” Dara this time lends his voice on the freestyle poetry banter of “The Peach” as Harris’s voice echoes the late John Lee Hooker with its Delta roadhouse stomp and guitar picking mannerisms that Harris picked up from Lightnin’ Hopkins, the great acoustic finger picking bluesman that inspired Harris to pick up the guitar when he was a young kid.
Let us not forget that Corey Harris is a righteous man and being righteous means that one has a duty to chide evil. Evil, in this case, is that rat-faced President’s foolish post-9/11 foreign policy, which Harris confronts with his reggae-rapping style and a beat that makes a crowd of people rise up in “The Bush is Burning” with intelligent and thoughtful lyrics such as:
All Blood is precious
In His sight
See the fire burning
Ready for the fight
Don’t come to beg
Neither borrow nor bow
Every time you sing
You got to chant the system down
Corey Harris has shown us once again that he is a musicologist in his own right with skill for reading between the lines of all sounds in a way much like Alan Lomax did. However, his love and dedication for sound goes beyond one that has a degree or credential stamped on it. Daily Bread shows that his zest for tunes comes straight from the heart on an album that will no doubt be highly sought-after by his longtime fans and newcomers alike.
Keb Mo – Keb Mo
Corey Harris – Downhome Sophisticate
Bob Marley – Rastaman Vibration