Canadian Americana virtuoso harmonica player/musician Mike Stevens has a new album, Breathe In The World, Breathe Out Music, due to be available on May 20 via Stony Plain Records. Mike Stevens is an award-winning harmonica player, and man oh man, it shows. This is a truly fantastic album.
“Like a Little Bird” is a bit of a reggae blues number, with the beautiful harmonica punctuating the phrasing from the opening measure. Next up is “Watermelon Pie,” with its intriguing name and double time rhythms, this instrumental will hold your attention with call and response fast paced playing.
“Livin in Sarnia” takes a jaw harp sound and vocals from a far away radio as the opener, and then it opens out into an homage to Lake Huron living, with the intense jaw harp groove pinning down the whole song. This one is “wow”! “Orange Blossom Special” again combines strong, groovy harmonica with a catchy vocal intro, and the harmonica turns completely wild.
A cover of “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot is haunting and chilly but exquisitely done as an instrumental. “Ida Red” a whooping, kick up your feet and dance song, and just fun version of a fun traditional song.
The album is 12 songs long — I’ll leave the rest for you to discover on your own, but promise you won’t be disappointed by a single one. As Stevens says in the liner notes, he was diagnosed with a terrible case of Lyme disease during the recording of this album and was significantly under the effects of prescribed drugs and general discomfort. Is Lyme disease a new muse? The delirium translated into some real wonder. I have to say, I’m impressed. Are you looking for something fresh and new? For harmonica playing on the level of Charlie Musselwhite but with his own unique style, with beautiful phrasing, groovy loops, and things you might not have thought a harmonica could do — and for the beautiful songs — get ahold of this album.
Musicians on the album are Mike Steven on harmonica and vocals; Jeff Getty on acoustic guitar and backing vocals; Art Hratchian on drums; Kevin Breit on electric guitar and organ; Jeff Bird on bass, lap slide, jaw harp, triangle, and Taishogoto; Jesse Wells on acoustic guitar; Cory James Mitchell on vocals and backing vocals; Polly Harris on vocals; Andrew Collins on mandolin and on backing chorus: Sugar-Daisy Torrens, Indigo Torrens, Charleigh June Getty, Ian Powers-Agbeli, and Maddie Rae Wells.