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What's New: Adam Gussow Interview

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Currently an Associate Professor of English and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi with a specialty in blues literature and culture, Adam Gussow was one of the first amplified blues harp players to make overbends a key element of his stylistic approach, adapting Howard Levy's innovations in the late 1980s in a way that helped usher in a new generation of overbend masters such as Carlos Del Junco, Jason Ricci and Chris Michalek. According to a reviewer for American Harmonica Newsletter, Gussow's playing is characterized by "technical mastery and innovative brilliance that comes along once in a generation."

Gussow is best known for his long partnership with Mississippi-born guitarist and one-man-band Sterling "Mr. Satan" Magee as the duo Satan and Adam. After working the streets of Harlem from 1986 to 1991, Gussow and Magee duo toured internationally between 1991 and 1998. Their performing credits include the Chicago Blues Festival, the Newport Jazz Festival, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, The King Biscuit Blues Festival, the Kansas City Jazz & Blues Festival, the Philadelphia Folk Festival and RiverBlues Festival, and more, along with hundreds of club gigs. They toured with Bo Diddley and opened for Buddy Guy, David "Honeyboy" Edwards, Otis Clay, Johnny Winter, and Jimmy Thackery. They released two albums on Flying Fish Records, including the W. C. Handy-nominated Harlem Blues (1991) and Mother Mojo (1993). Later releases include Living on the River (1996) and, on the Modern Blues Harmonica label, Word on the Street: Harlem Recordings, 1989 (2008) and Back In The Game (2011). In 1996 Satan and Adam were the cover story in Living Blues magazine; according to editor David Nelson, Gussow enjoyed the curious honor of being "the first white blues musician to be so prominently spotlighted in the magazine's 26-year history."

In addition to his career with Magee, Gussow has worked in duo, band, and studio settings with guitarists Charlie Hilbert, Irving Louis Lattin, Wild Jimmy Spruill, Robert Ross, Bill Abel, Andrew "Shine" Turner, Bill Sims, Jr., and Brian Kramer. He has released two albums with Hilbert on the Modern Blues Harmonica label: Blues Classics (2007) and Live in Klingenthal (2008). In his recent incarnation as a one-man band, Gussow takes a cue from Magee and does it all-singing, blowing amplified harp, and stomping out some thump-and-metal grooves. Gussow's first solo album, Kick and Stomp (2010), spent many weeks at #1 in the "Hot New Releases in Acoustic Blues" chart at Amazon mp3's. It also received extensive airplay on Bluesville (SiriusXM), America's premier satellite radio blues show, and rose to the #2 position in the "picks to click" category. His second solo album, Southbound (2011), expands the one-man band sound with the help of Mississippi's finest session musicians, including bassists Jerry Jemmott and Dave Woolworth; it takes Gussow's distinctive mix of blues, jazz, and down-home funk to the next level.

Gussow is known to harmonica students around the world as a result of his "dirty-South blues harp channel" at YouTube and download video tutorials at his website, Modern Blues Harmonica. Gussow's other musical credits include a stint with the bus-and-truck tour of Big River; several decades as a blues harmonica instructor at The Guitar Study Center in New York and in private practice; and a nine-time coach at Jon Gindick's Blues Harmonica Jam Camps. He's also headlined the Mundharmonika-Live festival in Klingenthal, Germany (2008) and has taught at Blues Week in the UK (2008). In the spring of 2010, Gussow added a new credit line to his resume´ as the creator and promoter of Hill Country Harmonica, a two-day intensive that drew more than 100 players from 30 states and 7 foreign countries to Foxfire Ranch in north Mississippi to study with Billy Branch, Billy Gibson, Johnny Sansone, and other top pros. HCH 2011 drew almost 150 players and featured Sugar Blue, Jason Ricci, Charlie Sayles, Jimi Lee, Deak Harp, and Brandon Bailey, among others.

An award-winning scholar and memoirist, Gussow is the author of three blues-themed books: Mister Satan's Apprentice: A Blues Memoir (1998; reissued in 2009); Seems Like Murder Here: Southern Violence and the Blues Tradition (2002); and Journeyman's Road: Modern Blues Lives From Faulkner's Mississippi to Post-9/11 New York (2007). He is currently at work on a book-length study of the devil-figure in the blues.

This interview was recorded in August of 2011, in Norfolk, Virginia. For more information about Adam and his music visit:

Videos include: Early Influences, Part 1; Early Influences, Part 2; Lessons with Nat Riddles, Part 1; Lessons with Nat Riddles, Part 2; Lessons with Nat Riddles, Part 3; Accompaniment Playing, Part 1; Accompaniment Playing, Part 2; Influence from Horn Players and Rhythm; Improvising, Part 1; Improvising, Part 2; Improvising, Part 3; 3rd Position Playing; 1st Position Playing; Chromatic Harmonica; Importance of Music Theory; Minor Playing & More Music Theory; Adam's Equipment, Part 1; Adam's Equipment, Part 2; Where are we in the History of Harmonica Education? Part 1; Where are we in the History of Harmonica Education? Part 2; Closing