The Original Delta Fireballs

Juke Band

 

CD Review 

Big City Rhythm & Blues Magazine

By ROGER WHITE
April/May 2007

The Original Delta Fireballs are a throw back to old time blues, consisting of Geneva Red on vocals and harmonica and Jackie "5 & Dime" Wolworth playing guitar and drums or banjo and drums.  Their day job has been working as Geneva Red and the Roadsters for the last ten years. Inspired by the recordings of Dr. Ross and Elmon Mickle, Big Walter Horton and Joe Hill Louis, they formed the Original Delta Fireballs to continue this blues tradition.

Geneva Red is one of the top female "blues harp" players on the scene today. She's had an endorsement contract with the Hohner Harmonica company since 1998, performed at the Memorial Tribute to Junior Wells at Rosa's and has graced the cover of Big City Blues at Rice Miller's (Sonny Boy Williamson II) grave in Tutwiler, Mississippi with Charlie Musslewhite, Paul Oscher, Billy Gibson and Big George Brock.

Guitarist Jack Wolworth, a.k.a. Jackie 5 & Dime, comes at the blues from a different angle. For his 13th birthday Jack received a cheap electric guitar that he plugged into an old TV as his first amplifier. At the time it was jazz that drew his interest. He's worked in orchestras and pit bands, is an award winning orchestrator and arranger, and was nominated for an Arts Midwest Jazz Masters Award. Jack created and produced a 16 part radio series called "Jazz Works" and served as artistic and entertainment director for the Jazz Festival in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. In 1996 Jack produced a recording session for Geneva Red, and there was no turning back. He took on the persona of Jackie 5 & Dime, helped Red start the Roadsters and has been lost in the blues ever since.

"Come On With It - Live" was recorded in June 2006 as part of a "Two Reds are Better Than One" concert. Red and Jackie work the crowd with a set of classic blues, sounding a lot fuller than just a duo. Jackie sits behind the drums and plays guitar while Red steps out front on harmonica with "I've Had My Fun" and "Jelly Roll King". For "Down in the Bottom, " Jackie pulls out his banjo to give it some real bottom. Little Walter's "Blue And Lonesome" gives both players real time to shine. Jackie's national steel guitar solo sets the stage for Red's vocals, and when her harp comes in halfway through the song, it has that extra edge to set it off. They "Bring it On Home" with the audience providing the rhythm and Red sliding that harmonica in mouth like a cigar to play her solo and clap along at the same time, an old trick she acknowledges to Sonny Boy Williamson.

The steel guitar comes back out for some slide work on "St. Louis Blues". They start getting funky with "Born Under a Bad Sign" as Red wanders out into the audience for her solo. The real highlight of the CD isn't a classic blues song like the rest of the recording, but a classic jazz ballad from Billie Holiday. The moaning restrained harmonica and the gentle guitar set the stage for Miss Geneva Red to shine on this change of pace. They show there's always more to the music then you hear at first, their blues makes you look a little deeper.

This pair has taken the humble duo format and revitalized it. Both players have taken on the persona of classic blues characters with the names Geneva Red and Jackie 5 & Dime, in the process they have become legends on their own stage. Like most things in the blues, it ain't what you got, it's what you do with it.

CD Review 

Soul Bag Magazine

By ANDRE HOBUS
Belgium June 2007

translated by Andre Hobus

Let us start first with the strong points of this courageous disc. Energetic harmonicist - singer of Wisconsin, Geneva Red hitherto is the author of three CDs combining tradition and modernity. This time she opted for an uncommon formula: the one-man band with its customary guitarist, Jackie "5 & Dime" Wolworth, he doubles on the drums, like Joe Hill Louis, Dr. Ross and another Elmon Mickle who have inspired them. It is overall a success due principally to the knowledge and expertise of Red, who can reinterpret with vigor and good taste Frank Frost, Walter Horton, Sonny Boy Williamson II (harmonica in the mouth no hands included) and other historical figures of country and urban blues. Also surprisingly, even a  difficult title by Billie Holiday does well, while Albert King's "floats", sometimes in her "Scratch My Back " style. Lastly, an ambiguous surprise: the sound. You believe it to be a bootleg worthy of the pirated recordings of the heroic years when cassette machines collected it all: cavernous reverberation of the hall and inopportune interventions of the enthusiastic public. Today that bothers me. In any case, one thing is sure: this duet would raise the same enthusiastic reactions with our audiences over here; why do we wait to invite them?

Feature/Review

She's Red, she's blue, she's blowing strong

By MIKE LACKEY
Lima
News, Lima, OH.


   Geneva Red gave her heart and soul to what blues musicians call the mouth harp. She almost gave a lung, too. It happened the first time Red ever tried to play a harmonica. She ended up with a partially collapsed left lung. The experience was doubly frightening because years earlier, when Red was 12, part of the lung had been surgically removed because doctors feared it would become cancerous. She was told the lung would heal and in time "it would be like I never had surgery. I can't even tell you what went wrong...," she says now. " The doctors said maybe it was from the surgery; maybe there was an air pocket in there that (the exertion) disturbed and it finally moved it out. We don't know."
   The pain was indescribable. Red was "freaked out." She put the harmonica down and didn't pick it up again for a year. But it wouldn't leave her alone. "I just kept listening to the music and you know, there was like this calling for me," she said. " I had to do it. I had to play the harp." So she tried again. On the advice of her friend, musician Jackie 5 & Dime" Wolworth, she challenged herself to play an hour every day for a year. If she could do that, Wolworth said, she was meant for the instrument. "I literally locked myself in the bedroom," she said. "Every moment that I could --driving in the car, at lunch --I would play it. When I came home at night I would play it. For about a year, that was my life."
   Today Geneva Red is one of the relatively few women playing blues harp and fronting her own band. The child of actors, she grew up performing on stage and these days--six feet tall with red hair cascading down over her shoulders--she has electrifying presence to go with her musical chops.
   Red grew up in the Chicago area, but she is steeped in the blues of the Mississippi delta. One of her early influences on the harp was Frank Frost, whom she first heard on the soundtrack of the movie "Crossroads." Shortly after Frost's death, she enlisted his long-time partner, drummer Sam Carr, to play on her second CD. She ended up in a jam session at Carr's home in Dundee, Miss., right at one of several crossroads sometimes claimed as the site where blues legend Robert Johnson supposedly made his pact with the devil. Within minutes, Red said, Carr's wife was on the phone and the house was filling up with "all these great delta blues players" come to hear the "white chick" blowing harp.
    Red, in Lima this week for a school residency, turned more heads Wednesday night at the Allen County Museum. Backed by Wolworth on guitars, banjo and percussion, she dipped into the music of Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, and John Lee Hooker. She showed, courtesy of Sonny Boy Williamson, how to clap and play harmonica at the same time. "I hope I do you justice, Sonny," she called heavenward.
   She also trotted out a couple surprises. "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition was In)" is remembered as a piece of '60s psychedelica that was an early hit for Kenny Rogers. But Red and Wolworth were inspired after hearing the song sung by its writer, Mickey Newbury, who did it "very bluesy."
   Red even cast a blue tint over Billie Holiday's poignant "Don't Explain," which Red called her favorite song. "It's probably considered 'jazz,' " she said, making quotation marks with her fingers. "The form is different, the chord changes are different, I'm playing fourth-position harmonica rather than cross-harp. "It's a stretch for any harp player. But I connected with that song. I heard that song and I just had to do it."
   Red waded into the audience and walked on the furniture. The atmosphere got about as rowdy as it's likely to get at the museum. Red exercised her pipes vocally and instrumentally for a strenuous hour and came out looking the picture of health. Playing the harmonica has caused no more trouble with her breathing apparatus. "If anything, I'm better for it now," she said. "What a great way to strengthen my lungs."

 

Copyright 2007 Ourkives Music

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