We are very excited to be featured in Living Blues Magazine this month, with a glowing review of our debut album “Love Whip Blues”! Pick up your copy, on newsstands now – Issue #239.
ERIN HARPE & THE DELTA SWINGERS Love Whip Blues VizzTone/Juicy Juju – VTJJ-001 As a young girl, Annapolis, Maryland–native Erin Harpe learned the blues literally at the feet of the African American blues players of the Washington, D.C. acoustic scene. Her father, visual artist and guitarist Neil Harpe, was a mainstay at the famed Archie’s Barbershop where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Archie Edwards, John Cephas, Phil Wiggins and John Jackson. Erin grew up as a friend to all, picking up the true blues from early on. Her father, Neil, is internationally renowned among guitarists as a Stella expert and “purveyor of fine old time guitars.”
Erin’s first mentor was her father, with whom she recorded a duo album in 2008, Delta Blues Duets, and she was profoundly influenced by Memphis Minnie. She also looked up to another local woman, an important member of that vibrant and nurturing acoustic blues scene—Piedmont fingerpicker Eleanor Ellis, who taught Erin the intricacies of the East Coast guitar style.
Now, all grown up and living in Boston, Erin Harpe fronts the Delta Swingers as lead singer and guitarist. She has mastered the fingerpicking alternate bass style, which she has transferred to her electric Epiphone. The Delta Swingers, humorously referred to as the “Charles River Delta Blues” Swingers, is a funky, jumping dance-beat, roots-rocking blues band fronted by a dancing, fiery woman with a flower in her hair, who plays guitar better than the boys and who can sing the roof off an Amish barn. She carries just a hint of the bad-girl blues image, with that Betty Boop rockabilly chic, coarse fishnet stockings, red lipstick, flaming red hair and short skirt, with a tongue-in-cheek sultry undertone that is so much a part of the blues. On stage she puts on an energetically mesmerizing show, and that prowess carried over well to her sassy Love Whip Blues, the title song with its unmistakable sexual overtone.
The band does superb covers of Willie Brown’s Future Blues and Bessie Jackson’s I Hate That Train Called the M. and O. The bluesy roots-rock original Good Luck Baby is a smashing standout, not just for Erin Harpe but for the band, an excellent song with a 1950s R&B tinge, performed beautifully. They also shine on Luke Jordan’s Pick Poor Robin Clean and Charles River Delta Blues (based on Arkansas-native William Brown’s Library of Congress recording Mississippi Blues). As if to prove that every song ever recorded has multiple interpretive possibilities, the album closes with John Prine’s Angel From Montgomery, usually played sad and slow, but Erin Harpe does it fast and upbeat.
The album leaves you wishing for more with just ten songs, but it may leave you for wanting less harmonica, as the skilled but saturating reed blower evidently thought a Harpe record meant a “harp” record.
Erin Harpe is one of the most dynamic, talented and exciting roots rocking blues women on the scene and it’s time she gets noticed, as she has it all—a golden voice and the guitar chops that dazzle. As many of the great divas of the roots rocking blues are aging, the emerging new generation, like Imelda May, Grace Potter and Erin Harpe are firing up younger audiences, and Erin Harpe makes it as fun and exciting as ever, and that’s a good thing for the blues.