Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Corey Harris

  • Fish Ain't Bitin' [Alligator, 1997] A-
  • Greens from the Garden [Alligator, 1999] **
  • Downhome Sophisticate [Rounder, 2002] A-
  • Mississippi to Mali [Rounder, 2003] Dud
  • Break Bread [Rounder, 2005] **
  • Zion Crossroads [Telarc, 2007] *

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Fish Ain't Bitin' [Alligator, 1997]
After a debut that established his mastery of the Delta idiom, this young black Denver native does something really hard--proves he's big enough to fool around with it. The intermittent New Orleans polyphony is as warm as the tuba of fellow National steel-bodied adept Taj Mahal. And as much as Harris's cross-rhythms and vocal panoply honor his readings of the classics, his virtuosity springs to life on originals where a catfish farm saps the Red River or Mumia and Rodney King leave him nowhere to take his trunk. A-

Greens from the Garden [Alligator, 1999]
the best thing he can do for his roots is grow new songs from them ("Honeysuckle," "Basehead," "Teabag Blues") **

Downhome Sophisticate [Rounder, 2002]
If Harris had the good sense to be white, he'd be a roots-rock hero. But it would probably help too if he gave the four-piece whose record this is a moniker, so here goes. Those North Nawlins No-Names, dang--they evoke the heart-skip irregularities of Delta blues like gathering moss is for moldy figs. Blend in West Africa like blues came from there or something. And top it off with rock-type poetry that makes like social conditions are as real as love and dreams. Songwriting could be sharper, true. But if you're looking for a sound, they've got one in spades. A-

Mississippi to Mali [Rounder, 2003] Dud

Break Bread [Rounder, 2005]
Has more blues in him than Ali Farka Toure and Sylford Walker combined ("The Bush Is Burning," "Mama Wata"). **

Zion Crossroads [Telarc, 2007]
For his reggae debut, the blues-singing anthropology major clears the grit from his throat, emulates Winston Rodney's penetrating wail, and writes the protest songs he was born to ("Walter Rodney," "No Peace for the Wicked"). *

See Also