Corey Harris is a remarkable talent who refuses to be categorized by genres or labels. "Downhome Sophisticate" is a wonderful follow-up to Harris' stellar 1999 release "Greens in the Garden". Harris is one of the few musicians capable of creating a record that has a variety of styles that somehow fit together perfectly. Though firmly rooted in the blues, "Downhome Sophisticate" is actually a mix of funk, rock, reggae, hip-hop, gospel and world beats. At no time does anything feel out of place. As he says, he uses the blues as a "blueprint to build whatever house you want.".
The record is loaded with remarkable performances. His revved up version of "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Buring" is a great companion to "Between Midnight and Day"'s acoustic version. "Black Maria" is simply gorgeous and "Frankie Doris" flat out roars. And the driving force behind it all is Corey's voice. He sounds utterly amazing.
Why didn't this record make more noise than it did? This is the type of music I'd like to see/hear more of in the mainstream market. Though well known in the blues circles (and perhaps some Dave Matthews fans), you rarely hear Corey mentioned accept for a Rolling Stone cd review here or a World Cafe broadcast there. Corey Harris and the 5x5 should be superstars. Until that time they'll just have to remain hidden gems.