The tall and introvert Walter Horton may have been the first musician to amplify his harmonica, and even though he is much less famous than Little Walter Jacobs and the two Sonny Boy Williamsons, Horton's influence has been no less great.
A masterful harpist whose varied, tasteful and fluid playing incoroprated virtuosic single lines and enormous, horn-like blasts, Walter Horton never care much for the role of band leader, preferring to remain in the background. Yet he can be heard on more recordings than Little Walter and Rice Miller put together, having backed virtually everybody who was anybody (with the exception of artists like Junior Wells and Howlin' Wolf, who were harp players themselves).
Walter "Shakey" Horton worked with Muddy Waters, Johnny Shines, Floyd Jones, J.B. Hutto, Otis Rush, Otis Spann, Sunnyland Slim, Big Mama Thornton, David "Honeyboy" Edwards, Buddy Guy, Johnny Young, Jimmy Rogers, Willie Dixon, and B.B. King, as well as Johnny Winter, Fleetwood Mac, Paul Butterfield and others. And this collection of 1951 sides (many of them produced by a certain Sam Phillips) is one of the few albums that casts Horton as a band leader, handling both the harp and all lead vocals.
And Walter Horton proves to be a more than adequate singer, coming off especially well on the up-tempo numbers "Hard Hearted Woman" and "Blues In The Morning", and the slow "Go Long Woman", and receiving excellent back-up from one-man-band Joe Hill Louis who plays both guitar, bass, drums and percussion.
But first and foremost, "Mouth Harp Maestro" demonstrates the depth and breadth of Horton's talent as a harpist. Wilie Dixon once called him "the best harmonica player I have ever heard", and his playing on "Little Boy Blue", "Walter's Blues" and the magnificent, understated instrumental "Cotton Patch Hot Foot" is the equal of anything Little Walter Jacobs or John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson ever did.
4 1/2 stars...a must-have for anyone with a serious interest in classic blues harmonica.