by Shannon Smith
Ric Harris, Open For Business Review
Guitarist Ric Harris began his journey as a musician in North Carolina, later relocating to Chicago with a third move to California to attend the Guitar Institute of Technology. After returning to Chicago, Harris formed his own jazz group and appeared in the area until 1991, at which time he retired to raise his children. After the kids were raised Harris decided to refocus his career and vision with a focus on his love of the blues. His debut album Open For Business gets right down to it, with a seasoned fashioning of original blues that offers a combining of tradition with a new approach to the blues.
The title track “Open For Business” opens the album, a moving shuffle with a smart intro and catchy melody. Harris’ slide guitar is joined by Avery’s guitar as the two do a call and response style intro with melody and chord hits. Instantly you can hear that this is going to be a true blues album, one based in the rich hues of the tradition. Harris’ voice is gritty and weathered, he does not have a lot of sustain in his singing style, but he conveys the blues and emotion all the same getting right down to business. The lyrics are playful and witty and the melody memorable. Kostakes piano fills during the melody is spot on and it is nice to hear a blues album with two guitars and piano. Kostakes takes the solo runs first, his chops are bluesy, and the band supports him with a solid shuffle and rhythmic figure form the guitars. Harris’ solo is told from his distorted guitar sound, with all the qualities of the blues, he proceeds to bend, slide, and shake his way around the blues scale. Harris has the blues and your gonna feel’em.
“Is It Ever This Hard” is a bluesy number that borrows from the funky sounds of the 70s. With a clean swanky funky feel keeping the sixteenth pattern in the groove, Kostakes switches to organ to give the track a soul feel. Harris turns up the heart with his melody and the band is off to the races with solos, starting with the impressive slide work of Harris. His slide work has good intonation, tone and feel, as he milks out all the emotion from his guitar. Ray Cumpian blows a mean blues harp on this song, howling and sliding for a stand-up performance. For the last phrase of the melody Gwen Klemenz lends and nice female vocal color to the melody. Harris has put together a blues band that can play!
Sometimes life interrupts and that is a familiar story for many musicians, but thankfully Harris turned his focus back to his career and with a winning debut blues album Open For Business is a solid album that has a mature and seasoned blues attitude.