Harry "Big Daddy" Hypolite
Louisiana Country Boy
Review by Dave Glackin
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SACD Stock Number: APO SACD
(APO 2016 SA)
Harry "Big Daddy" Hypolite has long deserved to make a recording in which he's the featured artist. And now he has, thanks to the indefatigable efforts of Chad
Kassem. Harry is a consummate musician, a phenomenal guitar player, an enthusiastic singer, a real crowd pleaser, and an extraordinary but modest human being. I know, because I was at Chad's place to see him perform. And now Chad has issued the first recording to feature Harry, in a wonderful set of performances on SACD.
Chad Kassem is doing as much as anyone alive today to preserve the blues. His Blue Heaven Studios, in a beautiful old cathedral in Salina, Kansas, is a place where blues artists can be recorded in state-of-the-art sound in a relaxed, inviting atmosphere. Chad has become justifiably famous for his efforts to record aging blues masters for posterity.
I had the distinct pleasure of getting to know Harry Hypolite while covering Chad's third "Blues Masters at the Crossroads" festival in October,
2000 (see show report by clicking here). As a young child in Louisiana, Harry dropped out of school in the fourth grade, after which he chopped sugar cane, dug sweet potatoes, and picked cotton. He's had a hard life, but you'd never have known it from the upbeat, friendly, nearly radiant person he proved to be in Salina.
During the concert, Harry's personality just beamed out from the stage. He was grinning, grimacing, and clearly having a ball, and the crowd just ate it up. I called Harry a "modern Cajun Chuck Berry... a guitar picker extraordinaire" in my article
"Livin' With The Blues in Salina" elsewhere in this publication. Harry has some flashy moves on his solid-body Gibson 335, including some crowd-pleasing behind-the-back picking. The guy is an amazing performer.
With this SACD, you will get a tremendous dose of what I got when Harry was playing mere feet in front of me, minus the crowd noise. The sound is clear, immediate, live and real. Harry is all but in your room in the flesh. This was a pure analog recording made in 2000 at Blue Heaven studios, translated via Sony's DSD (Direct Stream Digital) process to SACD. Harry, on acoustic and electric guitar, is ably accompanied by Jimmy D. Lane on electric guitar and
dobro, Big John Amaro on Hammond B-3, Loui Villeri on bass, and Bruce Cahoon on drums. The Hammond B-3 in Chad's place is a fine example of the instrument. Jimmy D's playing is as fluid as what I experienced live in Salina.
If this album doesn't get you up and dancing around the room, something's wrong somewhere, and it ain't in this SACD. Harry alternates up-tempo numbers with slower ones, and he sings both in English and in his native Creole. The selection of pieces for this first release is inspired, and it includes several that I heard live in concert in Salina.
I am truly thankful to have had the chance to spend time talking to Harry, and to have seen him perform live about four feet in front of my nose. Harry has indeed had a hard life, but he'll make yours a little bit better with this recording.
If you have an SACD player, buy this recording. If you don't have an SACD player, run out and buy the Sony DVP-NS500V for about $200 on sale, and then buy this recording. (About six months ago, you couldn't touch an SACD machine for under $1500. Now, they have three great single-disc players in the $300-$600 list price range, that play DVDs and CDs to boot.) What are you waiting for? Highly recommended.
Sound Quality: 100