Chicago, Illinois has a long tradition of producing some of today's finest blues. The tradition continues with the introduction of three rising blues stars on a new label called Swississippi Records.
Aspiring harmonica player Chris Harper found one way of entering the music business was to start his own record label. Determined to follow his dream, he sold his convention display company in Switzerland, and along with Chicago blues producer Dave Katzman, launched Swississippi Records.
Katzman describes Harper's sound as a blend of Chicago and Mississippi blues.
"Chris has his own style. He's taken all the years of studying Sonny Boy Williamson and Junior Wells and Carey Bell; I could go down the list of the kings of harp," he said. "He's done his homework and he turns it around and makes it his style."
Harper makes his label debut with "Four Aces and a Harp," featuring noted Chicago-area blues players John Primer, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, Jimmy Burns, and Robert Stroger.
The lineup also includes singer and washboard player Peaches Staten, whose album was recorded live at Buddy Guy's world-famous Legends nightclub. According to Dave Katzman, a longtime sound engineer at Legends, the club provided the perfect setting for Staten's first release.
"When she plays to an audience, and this is why we came out with a live album first, she owns the room and everybody in the room has a great time," he said. "For a performer to be able to really communicate with an audience and really bring them into it and make it their party, I think that's a really good talent. I hope that comes across on the album."
Rounding out the Swississippi roster is Rob Blaine, a 29-year-old guitarist from Chicago. Dave Katzman believes he'll enjoy a long career.
"Rob is a young guy who is incredibly talented and has, I don't even know how to describe it, but he has a very mature style of singing and he also has a very knowledgeable style of guitar," he said. "A lot of younger guys don't really bring in the older styles. Rob was Little Milton's guitar player for awhile and he was mentored by him. He's got a lot of Freddie King in him and he's got a lot of Otis Rush in him. He's done his homework."