Local Wire

Jason Ricci & New Blood

In the fast-and-loose world of alt-journalism, filled with clever quips and erudite observations, it'd be all too easy to make some sort of salacious wordplay out of that fact that harmonica-playing blues savant Jason Ricci is openly gay (and likely incorporating the phrase "mouth organ" in some fashion). Frankly, that kinda gag w ould be an atrocious insult to such a prodigiously talented musician. The twentysomething blues harpist has been compared to Jimi Hendrix by more than a few music scribes, owing to his ingenious ability to warp and transmogrify the warbling tones of his harmonica into unheard of sounds akin to a sitar, saxophone, or some otherworldly aural kinkiness. Backed by torrid and bluesy Clapton-esque riffs from New Blood guitarist Shawn Starsky, Ricci's musical oeuvre ranges from straight Delta blues to expansive jam-rock trips to lackadaisically moody songs bordering on emo (befitting his past as a punk rocker and current look of scruffy, indie-rock hair and Hot Topic wear). His vocals are equally as enthralling, as he moans, croons, and caterwauls lyrics which can be bombastic ("Snowflakes and Horses"), baleful ("Loving Eyes"), or bizarre ("Rocket No. 9"). Having first picked up a mouth harp at 15, Ricci gruelingly studied such harmonica idols as Sonny Boy Williamson and Pat Ramsey, won a slew of awards before he turned 21, and has shared stages with legends like R.L. Burnside and Nick Curran. Schooled by these traditionalists, he's made a habit of bending and shaping the blues into parts unknown.