The third annual Harmonica Blowdown wasn’t quite the night of the endless shuffle, but there were enough up-tempo blues at the six-hour performance to satiate the capacity crowd at the Music Machine on Saturday night. The blowdown, a benefit for the family of the late George (Harmonica) Smith, paired hometown stalwarts William Clarke and James Harman with two veterans making their local debuts.
Lazy Lester helped fashion the swamp-blues sound associated with Lightning Slim and Slim Harpo on the Excello label during the ‘50s and ‘60s. The lanky Louisiana man (who plays the Palomino on Friday) blended his deep voice and agile instrumental work on a nicely-paced assortment of bayou boogies and grinding swamp blues.
George (Mojo) Buford, resplendent in a black leather outfit and harmonica-studded bandolier, earned his stripes playing with Muddy Waters--as you might have guessed from his repertoire of Chicago blues standards. But only brief sections of Little Walter’s “Blues With a Feeling” and Waters’ “Got My Mojo Workin’ ” struck sparks.
Sandwiched between those per formances, Clarke’s quintet delivered an hour of sprightly shuffles, even rousing that portion of the audience that inexplicably spent the first half of the evening sitting on the dance floor.