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Neal Pattman: Prison Blues

Neal Pattman is the harmonica ace on the Music Makers travelling blues show. On Prison Blues (Cello 91003-2; 57:14) he effortlessly bends notes while alternately whooping and crying through his blues harp to dramatic effect. With stark accompaniment from Cootie Starks and Taj Mahal, who served as creative consultant on the series, the Georgia-born Pattman delivers traditional numbers like “Catfish Blues,” “Shortnin’ Bread” and “Oklahoma City Blues” with an eerie, haunting power. The stark, unaccompanied title track, about working on a chain gang down in Georgia, is brutally honest and positively compelling. Inexplicably, jazz great Lee Konitz appears on “Talkin’ ‘Bout You Baby,” blowing soft and elegant alto sax rings around Mark Levinson’s walking basslines while commenting on Pattman’s sweet falsetto and uncanny melisima. This one is the real gem of the three.

Originally Published