20 Signs of Life in 2002
Number 18 - Corey Harris - Downhome Sophisticate
In between the 1995 release of Corey Harris' debut album, Between Midnight and Day and its follow-up, Fish Ain't Bitin', Corey Harris made this observation about interpreting the music of the Delta blues pioneers and writing his own original material to add to that canon: "I think it’s your duty as a musician to know the tradition, and then to know yourself. I know myself through my music, but I’m nothing without the tradition. I keep my hands on both."
Harris is a long way from the sparse Delta blues roots of his early career, but he hasn’t forgotten the tradition. With each successive album, the phenomenal blues guitarist has added new shades to his sonic palette, from the African polyrhythms he studied in his post-graduate college work to the musical gumbo he found in relocating to New Orleans to the reggae, hip-hop and jazz that he naturally absorbed at all points between and beyond.
With Downhome Sophisticate, his debut album for Rounder, Harris continues his amazing exploration of tradition's impact on his unique musical viewpoint, this time by incorporating Latin rhythms into the constantly percolating mix of his previously displayed talents. Corey Harris has once again proven to be a master musicologist–not in the dusty, academic sense, but through his insightful study of musical history and his brilliant application of that knowledge in his living, breathing contributions to the rich vein of contemporary American blues.