When the calendar flips to January, Northern California fans of blues harmonica know where they can go to listen to their favorite instrument.
For the last 22 years, Mark Hummels annual Blues Harmonica Blowout has brought some of the biggest names in the genre to perform live in concert.
The show returns to the State Theatre in Modesto on Thursday and also will play in Hummels home city of Oakland as well as Chico, Redding, Arcata, Folsom and Napa.
Its sort of an underground thing still, Hummel said. Blues harmonica doesnt get the notoriety that guitar does, but at the same time it has a lot of people that are very interested in it and want to find out more and hear more of it. The fact that Ive put all these players together is something that draws crowds of people who are aficionados of the instrument or are just finding out about the instrument.
For the third year in a row, Hummel is making the show a tribute to a legendary artist. This time its Jimmy Reed, who played guitar and rack harmonica and influenced Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones. Previous tributes were for Little Walter and Muddy Waters.
Reed, who died in 1976, was one of the first harmonica players Hummel heard on the radio when he started listening to R&B stations.
The only other one was Slim Harpo, he said. I heard Jimmy Reed doing Honest I Do. Everything else was Motown and Memphis soul thats what you heard on black radio back then. Hummel also thought it was appropriate to do a Reed tribute because the performer had a local connection he died in Oakland.
One musician in the lineup Ron Thompson played with Reed on some of his last gigs. Thompson, a founding member of both Ron Thompson and the Resistors and Mick Fleetwoods Blue Whale, counts Reed as one of his biggest inspirations.
Also performing at the Blues Harmonic Blowout at the State is Lazy Lester, a 79-year-old Louisiana master of swamp blues whose songs have been recorded by artists such as The Fabulous Thunderbirds, The Kinks and Dwight Yoakam.
Reeds influence is evident in Lazy Lesters sound and the performer still has great skills, Hummel said. He still blows great harmonica, sings great and plays great guitar, he said.
Lazy Lester said he was immediately drawn to Reeds style of playing. It was the easiest music in the world to understand because it was natural to my ears, he said.
Also on the Blowout lineup are Rick Estrin, whose sound has been compared to Cab Calloway, Louis Jordan and Willie Dixon; Joe Louis Walker, who guest-performed on James Cottons Grammy-winning Deep in the Blues CD and Kim Wilson, lead singer and harmonica player of The Fabulous Thunderbirds.
Hummel said the show should draw a big turnout, as it has in the past.
There are an awful lot of people that are always asking about it, he said.
WHAT: Mark Hummel's Blues Harmonica Blowout: A Tribute to Jimmy Reed
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: State Theatre, 1307 J St., Modesto
CALL: (209) 527-4697