Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers

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Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers
OriginJamaica Plain, Massachusetts, United States
GenresDelta blues, soul, funk, reggae
Years active2010 (2010)–present
LabelsVizzTone Label Group
Associated actsLovewhip
Websiteerinharpe.com
Members
  • Erin Harpe
  • Jim Countryman
  • Jason Novak

Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers are an American Delta blues band based in Boston[1] from Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, United States. Formed in 2010, the group features founding members Erin Harpe (lead vocals and guitar), and Jim Countryman (electric bass).[2]

They released their debut album, Love Whip Blues, in 2014.[3] Their sophomore effort, Big Road, followed in 2017.[4] A festive album, The Christmas Swing, was released in December 2018.[5]

With the location in which they formed in mind, Harpe describes the band's sound as Charles River Delta blues, a fictional genre that gave its name to a track on Love Whip Blues.

History[edit]

Erin Harpe's early career[edit]

Erin Harpe grew up in Greenbelt, Maryland. She graduated Eleanor Roosevelt High School, before studying anthropology at Earlham College.[3]

Harpe's father, Neil, is a blues musician who played in a band called Franklin Harpe and Usilton.[3]

Although his daughter grew up with music around her, she did not pick up an instrument until fourth grade, when she opted to play the flute. She played that for about ten years, before a young love interest, who knew all of the lyrics to "Alice's Restaurant," turned her head to the guitar. “I ran home and said, ‘Dad, you’ve got to teach me how to play it.’ After that, I was hooked. I could pick it up really easily, so I said, ‘Screw the flute’ and learned finger-picking blues guitar.”[2]

Harpe started to play at folk festivals and coffeehouses in her 20s. She later moved to Boston and met bass player Jim Countryman, whom she married in 1999. Harpe has stated "he’s my partner (as an artist) and my manager. I’m the artistic director, visual and musical.”[3] Together, they formed the electro-funk dance band Lovewhip in 1998, releasing four studio albums and one live set,[2] winning a Boston Music Award in 2004[3] for "World Music Act of the Year".

Harpe released two albums under her own name. The first, Blues Roots (2002), was a set of covers by artists such as Memphis Minnie (Harpe's main influence),[6] Bessie Smith and Tommy Johnson. The second, Delta Blues Duets (2008), included duets recorded with her father.

Delta Swingers[edit]

In May 2010, Harpe formed the Delta Swingers quartet. Alongside Countryman, harmonica player Richard "Rosy" Rosenblatt and drummer Bob Nisi were brought in as the last of the original members. Four months later, the band won their first Boston Blues Challenge and represented Boston in the 2011 International Blues Challenge (IBC), at which they made it to the semi-finals. The band returned to the IBC again in 2013 (as a quintet) and 2016 (again making the semi-finals). Several soloists performed with the group, including "Sonny" Jim Clifford on slide guitar and harmonica (during the period where they were a quintet along with Richard Rosenblatt).

An initial attempt to disband Lovewhip to focus on the Swingers was rebuked by fans. “We tried to end Lovewhip but fans revolted,” Harpe said in 2014.[2]

In April 2014, Harpe and Countryman, who also doubles as the band's general manager and booking agent, toured the U.K. as the Acoustic Blues Duo, with the former on acoustic guitar and the latter on ukulele bass.

After signing to Newton-based VizzTone Label Group (founded by Rosenblatt) in late 2014,[7] the Swingers released their debut album, Love Whip Blues, on November 4, 2014. The title (and second track on the album) is derived from the band's alter ego, Lovewhip.[3] Produced in collaboration with Dave Gross, of Fat Rabbit Studios, the album features ten tracks — four originals and six interpretations of songs by Willie Brown, Lucille Bogan, Luke Jordan, William Moore and John Prine.

Both Richard Rosenblatt and Bob Nisi left the band in 2016, after which Matthew Prozialeck took over on harmonica.[8] Countryman fell ill in July 2017 and was hospitalized with diverticulitis, at which point the band took a break.

The band's second studio album, titled Big Road, was released in October 2017, its title taken from a lyric in the second song, Harpe's self-penned "Lonely Leavin' Town". Four of the tracks are original; the other six are covers. Most of the album was recorded and mixed at Verdant Studio in Athens, Vermont, the exceptions being "Frankie" and "Guilty", which were recorded at Funk Bunker Studio in Arlington, Massachusetts.

The band released their first Christmas album the following year, titled A Christmas Swing.[5][9]

Harpe won the Boston Blues Challenge, for the fifth time (first time as a solo artist), in 2018, and attended the five-day International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee, in January 2019. The band have reached the semi-finals of the competition four times: in 2011, 2013, 2017 and 2019.

The band is currently working on their third studio album, with a UK tour in March 2019.

Band members[edit]

Present
  • Erin Harpe – vocals, acoustic and electric guitars (2010–present)
  • Jim Countryman – electric bass (2010–present)
  • Jason Novak (2019–present)
  • Dylan DiChiara – drums (2019)
  • Renato Milone – drums (2019)
Former
  • Richard "Rosy" Rosenblatt – harmonica (2010–2016)
  • Bob Nisi – drums and background vocals (2010–2016)
  • "Sonny" Jim Clifford — slide guitar (2013–2015)
  • Kendall Divoll – drums (2016–2017)
  • Devin Vaillancourt – drums (2017–2018)
  • Garrett Cameron – drums and backing vocals (2018)
  • Mike Santucci drums (2018-2019)
  • Matthew Prozialeck – harmonica and percussion (2015–2019)

Accolades[edit]

  • Boston Blues Challenge: winners 2010, 2012, 2014, 2018
  • Boston Music Awards: "Blues Act of the Year" winners 2012
  • Granite State Blues Challenge: winners 2016
  • International Blues Challenge: semi-finalists 2011, 2013, 2017, 2019

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Love Whip Blues (2014)[edit]

  1. "The Delta Swing" (4:39) (Harpe/Rosenblatt)
  2. "Love Whip Blues" (3:11) (Rosenblatt/Harpe)
  3. "Future Blues" (4:18) (Willie Brown)
  4. "Good Luck Baby" (4:22) (Rosenblatt/Harpe/Countryman)
  5. "The M&O Blues" (5:36) (Lucille Bogan)
  6. "One Way Man" (4:34) (based on "One Way Gal" by William Moore)
  7. "Pick Poor Robin Clean" (3:06) (Luke Jordan)
  8. "Virtual Booty Blues" (4:07) (Harpe/Countryman)
  9. "Charles River Delta Blues" (4:31) (based on "Mississippi Blues" by Willie Brown)
  10. "Angel From Montgomery" (5:26) (John Prine)
  • Personnel: Erin Harpe, Jim Countryman, Richard Rosenblatt, "Sonny" Jim Clifford, Bob Nisi
  • Producer: Dave Gross

Big Road (2017)[edit]

  1. "Kokomo" (5:33) (Mississippi Fred McDowell)
  2. "Lonely Leavin' Town" (5:54) (Harpe)
  3. "Big Road"(4:12) (Tommy Johnson)
  4. "Frankie" (3:42) (Mississippi John Hurt)
  5. "Shake Your Hips" (8:22) (Slim Harpo)
  6. "Casey Jones" (3:58) (Mississippi John Hurt)
  7. "Voodoo Blues" (3:37) (Harpe)
  8. "Stop & Listen" (3:02) (Harpe)
  9. "Guilty" (2:24) (Randy Newman)
  10. "Gimme That (Somethin' Special)" (6:36) (Dave Geissler/Lovewhip)
  • Personnel: Erin Harpe, Jim Countryman, Matt Prozialeck, Kendall Divoll, Michael Casavat (organ on "Lonely Leavin' Town" and "Shake Your Hips"; accordion on "Voodoo Blues")
  • Producers: Pete Weiss and Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers

The Christmas Swing (2018)[edit]

  1. "Jingle Bell Blues" (Harpe)
  2. "Merry Christmas" (Lightnin' Hopkins)
  3. "The Night Before Christmas"
  4. "At the Christmas Ball" (Bessie Smith)
  5. "Merry Christmas (Here I Come)"
  6. "The Christmas Swing" (Harpe)
  7. "Christmas is A-Comin'" (Lead Belly)
  8. "Drink and Get Drunk" (Bo Carter)
  9. "Run Run Rudolph" (Chuck Berry)
  10. "Auld Lang Syne" (Robert Burns)
  • Personnel: Erin Harpe, Jim Countryman, Matt Prozialeck, Chris Anzalone, John Juxo (piano on "At the Christmas Ball), Richard Rosenblatt (harp on "The Christmas Swing")
  • Producer: Erin Harpe, Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers

References[edit]

  1. ^ Adamian, John (December 28, 2016). "Erin Harpe's Blues-Roots Trio At Stomping Ground". Courant.com. Hartford Courant.
  2. ^ a b c d "ERIN HARPE & THE DELTA SWINGERS BRING BRIGHT BLUES TO ONE LONGFELLOW SQUARE ON SATURDAY". MaineToday.com. December 9, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Featured Interview – Erin Harpe". Bluesblastmagazine.com. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  4. ^ Bartholomew, Rex (December 8, 2017). "Erin Harpe and the Delta Swingers Big Road : Album Review". Bluesblastmagazine.com.
  5. ^ a b Jones, Steve (December 16, 2018). "Erin Harpe & The Delta Swingers The Christmas Swing : Album Review". Bluesblastmagazine.com.
  6. ^ "Erin Harpe". The Noise. May 29, 2014. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  7. ^ "New VizzTone Signings and Upcoming Releases for Fall!". Vizztone.com. August 27, 2014.
  8. ^ Copeland, Bill (November 3, 2017). "Harmonica man Matt Prozialeck shines as member of Erin Harpe & The Delta Swingers". Billcopelandmusicnews.com.
  9. ^ "Jingle Bell Blues by Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers (Official Music Video)". YouTube. November 14, 2018.

External links[edit]