Saturday, August 4, 2012

Welcome to Blues Harmonica News

Print is dead. At least it is for the niche magazines and newsletters that flourished prior to the rise of the internet. I recently ran across some PDFs of H.I.P. and The American Harmonica Newsletter and they inspired me to start this blog. Sure all of that info is available all over the internet, but that's precisely the problem: it is ALL OVER the internet. There is no one, centralized depository for Blues Harmonica, and/or Blues, and/or harmonica information. Furthermore, for better or worse, anyone can put information on the internet. There are no gatekeepers, and thus what one reads on the internet is not always correct, reliable or viable. In other words when it comes to the harmonica I've read a lot of stuff that sounds like it's from a person that knows what they are writing about, but ultimately they lack the chops to back it up. Sure, a person can be knowledgeable and passionate even if they aren't a great player, but I would prefer they were.

So my goal for this blog is to provide a place where a wide variety of harmonica information can be placed from a wide variety of contributors, with myself serving as editor and a contributor of rants and hopefully some legitimate journalism.

As I stated before, while the title of this Blog is Blues Harmonica News, content is open to any and all Blues information and any and all Harmonica information, and since it is my Blog I might throw in my opinions on whatever else I damn well please, short of religion and politics. My opinion on how awesome the 80s Marshall Crenshaw bootlegs I've  been listening too lately are, or how underrated the post-Smiley Smile Beach Boys records are, will be as outside of the boundaries as I might get. Don't worry I've got lots of opinions on harmonica and Blues too, and I have a lot of information too, and that's ultimately why I'm here and why you're here too.

So who am I? What makes me think I can be the arbiter of Blues Harmonica information in the digital age? Well here it is, take it or leave it.

I have been playing harmonica since I was 12. Now 38, that's 26 years on this silly instrument. On one hand I don’t take it too seriously, on the other, I've spent a significant portion of my life studying Blues music and harmonica and take it VERY seriously. I have been playing in bands since I was 16, playing clubs since I was 19 and leading my own band since I was 24. I spent two years literally at the feet of LA Bluesmen like Rod Piazza and Lynwood Slim, among others, learning about Blues, harmonica and life in general. I have lead my current band Ryan Hartt & The Blue Hearts for 12 years. We have recorded 3 CDs, won several local readers’ polls, won the Connecticut Blues Society's Blues Challenge 3 times and participated in the International Blues Competition in Memphis, TN 3 times.  We have played all over the Northeast and occasionally have played outside the region as well.

I'm a very good harmonica player, but not a virtuoso who has played nowhere but his bedroom for a YouTube audience. I'm out there doing it, so while I can't play Donna Lee in 12 keys on one harp I can give the average and above player some useful advice. I always say I'm not the best harmonica player, I'm not the best singer, I'm not the best bandleader and I'm not the best songwriter, but I think I do all four better than most. I've heard all the criticism of my band and me: we're too retro, we just shuck and jive in suits and Blues needs to move forward, blah blah. So in many ways this is my way to shoot back at the naysayers. Hey jack, YOU lead a band for 12 years then you can tell me whatever you want. And if you have and do, that's cool. I'll just keep doing what I do and you can to, but you might end up as fodder for this here blog.

So that's where I'm coming from for this blog. If you've never heard of me you've probably had your head in the sand of harmonica nerddom. I'm actually kinda well known. Probably better known than you, even though I've probably heard of you. I keep a pretty close ear to the ground and that's partially how I got where I am.

So if you've got something to contribute don't be afraid to write it up and shoot it off to me. Got a CD you'd like reviewed? I'd be happy to write about here. Got a product you'd like put through its paces and get some press on? Send it on over. Want to read the ramblings of a full time talent trapped in the life of a part time musician? Stay tuned.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hi Ryan,
    I've bookmarked your blog and look forward to future posts... when I get some time I'd like to contribute something. I've been wanting to write an appreciation piece on Boston's blues-punk pioneers, Treat Her Right. Anyway, hope all is well by you and best of luck with Blues Harmonica News!
    Bill Lifford

  3. Welcome to blogville! This will be on my regular reading list...

  4. Hey R..... I have some verve inside me and it gets expressed through my harp. As a pretty regular performer (who often feels lost) I crave a grounded musical commentary. And as such: I appreciate you common sense, talent and style. My best. d

  5. Ive read a lot of stuff that sounds like it's from a person that knows what they are writing about, but ultimately they lack the chops to back it up. Sure, a person can be knowledgeable and passionate even if they aren't a great player, but I would prefer they were.

    This is one of my pet complaints about posts. I always try to back up what I say with my own playing but ten post will say something different with no back up. I have no idea how the person plays or if they can even play but now the confusion is set in place.