While still relatively unbeknownst to many a casual listener, guitarist Corey Harris is quietly making a name for himself as one of the premier modern renaissance bluesmen currently on the scene today. With a keen talent for the Delta blues guitar work, combined with poignant and sometimes biting lyrics, and the ability to distill a wide blend of influences into solid music, Harris is quickly becoming one of the most revered guitarists in the modern blues era.

Born in 1969, in Denver, Colorado, Harris grew up around music for much of his formative years, through church and through family friends and relatives who were involved in a wide range of music scenes. Harris himself began playing guitar at age twelve. Influenced by the likes of Lightnin' Hopkins and Robert Johnson, he eventually ended up playing for a few bands in high school.

Following high school, Harris went to study at Maine's Bates College, where he studied anthropology, and it is through this program where Harris began to encounter an even wider range of musical influences. Travelling to Africa and visiting places such as Cameroon, because he wanted to learn more about "the black experience", he soon found himself learning more about the rhythms and textures of music.

Upon arrival back in the States, Harris moved to Louisiana, where he taught English and French to make a living. He also began recording music, but he also, again, started picking up local influence, this time being cajun and zydeco nuances.

From there, it's all recent history. in 1995, Harris put out his debut album, Between Midnight and Day; both Midnight and its follow-up effort, 1997's Fish Ain't Bitin' explore the heart of Delta blues, while at the same time, expand beyond the traditional considerations of the genre. In 1999, however, Harris came out with Greens From the Garden, a highly energetic and vivid album that draws heavy influence from his Cajun residency, including two songs sung in French. In addition, there is the ever-so-slight Carribean flavour to this album, but everything comes together quite nicely. Greens is often considered his best album to date.

In 2000, Harris teamed up with pianist Henry Butler, on Vu-Du Menz, an album that tends to return back to his more traditional roots, but doesn't quite go all the way -- it still manages to hold some of that Louisiana influence; there's also a very definite ragtime feel to this album. Harris' sometimes raspy, ragged voice manages to blend quite well with Butler's smooth, velvety croonings.

Finally, in 2002, Harris put out his most recent effort, Downhome Sophisticate, but not before taking several trips back to Africa, this time to Mali. Harris' trips truly energized him, and have made this album perhaps his most exciting release to date. Furthermore, while it is true that all of Harris' albums have touched upon the black struggle in America, Downhome Sophisticate bears the heaviest weight of all the albums thus far, without turning into a political grudge match.

As it stands now, the future looks bright for Corey Harris. It seems that he is on the top of his game right now -- and if this isn't the case, who knows what we're all in for. If you are unfamiliar with this musician, it's high-time to change this. This future elder statesman of blues is only getting better as he goes.

Works Referenced:
  • "Corey Harris: Biography": http://www.coreyharrismusic.com/bio.html
  • "All Music Guide: Corey Harris": http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=B5xh9keptjq7m

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