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Ben Hunter, Phil Wiggins & Joe Seamons Ben Hunter, Phil Wiggins & Joe Seamons
Album: A Black & Tan Ball
Label: Tantamount
Tracks: 13

American roots musicians Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons have teamed up with harmonica virtuoso Phil Wiggins for their latest album with some mightily impressive results.

The trio conjure up a musical journey through the pre-war American era that is nothing short of spell-binding.

From the opening track, Do You Call That A Buddy, the interplay between all three musicians is superb, with the harmonica featuring high in the mix with violin and guitar in perfect unison.

Ben Hunter (violin, mandolin and guitar) and Joe Seamons (guitar and banjo) came to notice last year when they won the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee with their blend of a cappella field hollers, fiddle and banjo interplay and country blues.

And on this evidence they have gone from strength to strength. The addition of Phil Wiggins, who is highly regarded as one of the foremost blues harp men in America and a former member of the duo Cephas & Wiggins, is a masterstroke. His playing would enliven any album and here he is blowing up a storm.

There is an intoxicating mix of early blues, jazz and folk blues to be found among the thirteen tracks.

Highlights include the frantic playing of Shanghai Rooster, with some hair-raising violin, the Louis Armstrong tune Struttin' With Some Barbeque with stunning harp, violin and guitar, and a stunning Guitar Rag, featuring all three on red-hot form.

There is a live take of the classic John Henry, and Leroy Carr's Longin' For My Sugar.

There's the Depression-era song Hard Time Blues, a storming Bullfrog Blues and Stop & Listen Blues, with Phil Wiggins taking the vocals as he does elsewhere on the album.

The trio appeared in the UK early in the year, including an appearance at Glasgow's Celtic Connections, and if you were lucky enough to see them live then you'll require no introduction.

For the rest of us, if you love rootsy music played at its finest then look no further.

John Knighton