Best Bets: Harper and Midwest Kind bring blues to Dover

By Craig Horleman
Posted 10/15/21

The music of Australia meets the truly American art form of the blues next week as the Central Delaware Blues Society welcomes Harper and Midwest Kind back to the area.

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Best Bets: Harper and Midwest Kind bring blues to Dover

Posted

The music of Australia meets the truly American art form of the blues next week as the Central Delaware Blues Society welcomes Harper and Midwest Kind back to the area.

Award-winning singer/songwriter and harmonica player Peter Harper, raised in Australia but now based in Detroit, heads the band, creating a mix of blues and roots music through his creative use of the harmonica and the drone of the didgeridoo, an ancient wind instrument native to Australia.

“I used to be known as ‘Jimi Hendrix of the harmonica’ and now they just call me ‘that didgeridoo guy,’” Mr. Harper said jokingly this week.

He has received 14 blues/roots music awards (including a gold record) in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada and achieved four top 10 Billboard Blues charting albums. He also recently won a Detroit Music Award for Outstanding Vocalist.

His 2016 release, “Show Your Love,” debuted at No. 9 and peaked at No. 3 in the U.S. Billboard Blues Albums chart and had a six-month run in the top 10.

His latest album “Rise Up,” released in February 2020, debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard Blues charts. It was listed in the Top 20 Blues Albums of 2020 by Blues Blast Magazine.

Harper and Midwest Kind play Thursday night at the Delaware Veterans Post No. 2 at 720 Pear St. in Dover.

The band last played for the CDBS during its 2018 Roadhouse Blues Festival at Jonathan’s Landing in Magnolia.

“People who have never seen or heard Harper will wonder how they lived without this music so long,” said Ken Belmont, bassist for local blues band Bad Juju and blues club member.

Born in England and moving to Australia with his family at age 10, Mr. Harper said he got interested in the blues through his grandfather’s record collection.

“He was a lover of blues music and he actually was the one that told me to play guitar. And then, after hearing me play guitar, he said ‘Well, you should try out the harmonica,’ which was a good idea,” Mr. Harper said with a laugh.

“So he got me listening to a lot of old standards and people who I still love today — Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters. So as a kid, I started listening and then you combine that with English blues, which was pretty popular in Australia as well when I moved there.

“There was also the English invasion of America with Led Zeppelin and Cream and all of those other fabulous bands that came along and they did their take on the blues. So I got all these different kinds of music and I combined it all and then started doing original music, pretty much from the age of 18. I always wanted to write my own music. I didn’t really want to be a cover band. I’ve been trying the hard way to do it but it’s worth it in the end.”

Taking up the harmonium and trumpet in his youth, Mr. Harper got to play with his blues hero Muddy Waters for a few shows in Australia when he was 14.

“I was pretty much the only harmonica player around that was doing any work. So when they asked me, ‘Do you want to do some work with Muddy Waters?’ I said, ‘How much do I have to pay you?’ It was a wonderful experience. I only did a couple of shows with him but, oh man, I’ll never forget it as long as I live. I mean he was magnificent. His voice was incredible,” Mr. Harper said.

Adding the didgeridoo to his music was a happy accident.

“It initially started with a blues jam in Australia where a guy actually came along with a didgeridoo and he said, ‘Hey man, can I get up and jam with you?’ and I thought, ‘Really?’ Because I really didn’t know much about them. Sure, I knew of them but I’ve never used one in music before. And he got up and did a jam and I mean I loved it. I thought it sounded awesome,” he said.

“So then I thought, ‘Man, I could do this in my band,’ play some didgeridoo underneath some of the songs and I started doing it and it worked out really well.”

While adding a tonal quality to the music, Mr. Harper said he also plays it as an homage.

“I learned to play it with the Australian natives and some of the songs are about their lot in life. But I’m not a preacher. I don’t get up there and start preaching anything. I just do the songs and let everyone take what they will from it. I think it’s better to do that. I don’t like to soapbox anything,” he said.

He says he tries to combine every tool in his belt to make his unique sound.

“It’s nice to have incorporated (the didgeridoo) into the style of what I do, which is kind of a bluesy, funky, soul vibe. It’s all the types of music I love. So I combine all that as much as I can do without sounding really weird. And then, of course, not every song has didgeridoo on it. It’s just every couple of songs every now and again. But it was always about the harmonica in the first early days. But now I’ve combined that with all of these other things and it just gives me a lot more I can do with my music,” he said.

For the early parts of his career, Mr. Harper was a solo act until he moved to the States in 2007 and formed a backing band called Midwest Kind. Although the members have come and gone over the years, he says the original ones are back for this tour.

The band features Austin Johnson on guitar, Lee Lewis on bass guitar, Bud Smith on drums and Bobbi Llewellyn on backing vocals/percussion.

Getting out on the road this year means Mr. Harper and Midwest Kind are finally playing songs from last year’s hit album “Rise Up.”

“I didn’t think the album was going to do as well as we did considering everything got shut down and we couldn’t play anywhere. When I’m touring, I don’t like to do the same thing all the time. I’ve personally seen bands, you know 10 years later, still playing the same stuff they did 10 years ago,” he said.

“But you want to change it up and do new material. So it’s nice to get the new material in and promote that.”

Admission for the show is $10 for CDBS members and nonmembers can get in for $15. Members are asked to bring their membership card to help speed up entry. Doors open at 6 p.m.

SJB and more

Local band Stone Jack Ballers have two gigs this weekend.

The Kent County Public Library will hold its Friday Night Music Box series featuring them tonight at 6:30.

There is limited seating for this free concert. Kent County Public Library is at 497 S. Red Haven Lane in Dover.

Saturday night the trio, which plays an eclectic mix of classic rock and funk, will perform at Mispillion River Brewing Co. in Milford at 7.

Along with fronting Stone Jack Ballers, Brian McDaniel has a new band called Everyday People. They played Arena’s on Rehoboth Avenue in Rehoboth Beach recently to a large crowd and are back Oct. 30 at 8 p.m.

Everyday People is a collective group of working musicians from other local bands such as Stone Jack Ballers, Tweed, Reunion, Second Sight, Hallelujah Jones and the Sundae Saints and more. The band was formed during the COVID lockdown and are finally hitting the road to perform.

They are comprised of Anna Burgess, lead vocals and guitar; Mr. McDaniel, vocals/guitar; Kagan Nuss, vocals/keyboard; Daniel McDonald, vocals/bass; Geoff Frazier, drums; CJ Plack, guitar; John Ragonese, saxophone; and Bob Carrico, trombone/backing vocals.

Carpenters tribute

The Smyrna Opera House will present Yesterday Once More: A Tribute to the Carpenters today at 7:30 p.m.

The Carpenters were one of the most successful musical sibling duos of all time, selling over 90 million records worldwide.

Some of the songs that are part of this performance are “Close To You,” “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “Top of The World.”

All tickets are $25 and available at SmyrnaOperaHouse.org, by calling 653-4236 or the box office at 7 W. South St.

Grey Fox Band Saturday

On Saturday, Delaware Friends of Folk will present their monthly coffee house concert in The Underground on the ground floor of the duPont College Center, 120 N. State St. in Dover, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Admission is $7 for members of Delaware Friends of Folk, $10 for nonmembers, teens are half-price, and those 12 and under are admitted free. Fresh-brewed coffee, baked cookies and other snacks will be available. Face masks are required on state properties.

This month’s show features local blues group The Grey Fox Band. Beginning life as a traditional blues group, the Grey Fox Band has ventured into R&B and funk as the newest member, saxophone player Dave Chambers, adds that groove. Chuck Hearne, Jeff Williams and Doug Drummond round out the quartet for this show.

Opening the evening will be local luthier Brian Howard, a lifelong musician from a family of master woodworkers.

After 30 years in custom woodworking and repairing guitars in his spare time, Mr. Howard opened his own Pennsylvania shop to construct handmade guitars in 2009. In the spring of 2018 he moved his business to Magnolia, where he builds, repairs and reconditions acoustic and electric guitars.

His gravelly voice and authentic playing on his handmade guitars features blues standards as well as his own compositions.

Kidding around

Spontaneous Combustion, a teen improvisation group, an offshoot of First State Improv, will host an evening of long- and short-form improv called “Spooktacularly Falling” at the Patchwork Playhouse in Dover tonight at 7.

Tickets are $10 at the door for this family-friendly event. The Patchwork Playhouse is at 140 Roosevelt Ave., Dover.

Now Showing

New this weekend is another chapter in the horror series “Halloween Kills” and Matt Damon in “The Last Duel.”