Review by Graham Clarke / Blues Bytes Pick Hit (December 2016).
West Coast Toast (Delta Groove Music) is Mitch Kashmar’s first studio effort since 2006’s Wake Up & Worry, and it finds the West Coast harpmaster in top form, backed by an exceptional band (Junior Watson – guitar, Fred Kaplan – piano/organ/cabasa, Bill Stuve – upright bass, Marty Dodson – drums) and tearing through a fine 11-song set roughly split between covers and originals. All of the songs pay tribute to the West Coast sound that was basically created by George “Harmonica” Smith when he migrated to Southern California from Chicago and inspired a host of West Coast-based harp players (William Clarke, Rob Piazza, Kim Wilson, etc…).
Kashmar turns in six impressive original tunes, including the topical “Petroleum Blues,” and “My Lil’ Stumptown Shack,” an homage to his adopted Portland, Oregon home. The remaining originals are a quartet of dazzling instrumentals (“East of 82nd Street,” “Mood Indica,” “Makin’ Bacon,” and “Canoodlin’”) that feature Kashmar’s skills on both diatonic and chromatic harmonica and reflect the influence of Windy City harmonica on the West Coast sound.
Kashmar also covers five tunes, including familiar classics from Willie Dixon (“Too Many Cooks”) and Billy Boy Arnold (“Don’t Stay Out All Night”), and less familiar fare from Henry Glover (“Young Girl”), Sonny Boy Williamson’s (Version 1.0) “Alcohol Blues,” and Lowell Fulson’s “Love Grown Cold.” This is a nice, diverse set of songs that will hopefully encourage listeners to check out the originals.
Kashmar’s playing and singing are as impeccable as ever, and Watson complements him perfectly on guitar. The rhythm section is rock solid. It all adds up to a near-flawless set of West Coast blues done by one of the masters of the craft. West Coast Toast will make a great addition to any blues fans’ collection.