The cosmic American love child of Howlin Wolf and Link Wray! Known as a “musician's musician,” Alvin Youngblood Hart’s praises have been sung by everyone from Bob Dylan to Brit guitar gods Eric Clapton & Mick Taylor.
Since the release of his 1996 debut recording, the all-acoustic BIG MAMA'S DOOR, Hart has relayed his eclectic musical message around the world. A devout follower of the "no barriers" approach carved out by veteran performers like Gatemouth Brown and the late/great Doug Sahm, Hart aims to delight the masses and points to challenge the so-called blues purists.
BIG MAMA’S DOOR was reviewed with blessings by Playboy with the prospect that Hart “had the power to bring the blues to Generation X” also stating that “Charley Patton would approve of Hart’s version of Pony Blues, and the cover of Gallows Pole is the coolest since Led Zeppelin’s.”
Based on the strength of his record debut and the allure of his live shows, Hart received five nominations at the 1997 W.C. Handy Blues Awards. He was nominated for Best New Artist, Best Acoustic Artist, and Best Traditional Blues Artist and his album (BIG MAMA’S DOOR) was nominated for both Acoustic Album of the Year and Traditional Album of the Year. He received the award for Best New Artist. Hart also received two Living Blues Awards that same year. The anticipated sophomore release of TERRITORY in 1998 gave a rousing tribute to all forms of American music and received the Downbeat Magazine Critics’ Poll Award for Best Blues Album (though TERRITORY is not a Blues album).
The summer of 1999 found Hart teaming up with celebrated producer Jim Dickinson to begin recording START WITH THE SOUL, a record hailed as a new-breed Southern Rock classic and one that piloted Hart's return to the "sacred garage.” START WITH THE SOUL was chosen by the New York Times as one of the top 10 releases of 2000, as well as the BBC's Blues Record of the Year.
In 2001 Hart shared Living Blues Magazine's best guitarist honors with fellow road dog Big Jack Johnson.
The 2003 release of DOWN IN THE ALLEY garnered a Grammy nomination. Despite critics’ recurring attempts to suggest Hart was “best enjoyed when performing solo,” Hart continued to diversify his audience by extensively touring as a member of Job Cain, a hard-rocking side project he assembled with guitarist Audley Freed (Cry of Love/Black Crowes) and Nashville musician Robert Kearns (The Bottle Rockets/Lynyrd Skynyrd). In August of 2003, Hart was invited to fill in for Taj Mahal for five nights in Tokyo as a member of Kip Hanrahan's Conjure, the world’s longest running jazz poetry ensemble. Assembled to lend musical support to the words of Bay Area poet Ishmael Reed, Conjure featured the talents of tenor sax giant David Murray and original Meters guitarist Leo Nocentelli. Hart remains a member of the revolving cast and recorded with the group on BAD MOUTH.
In 2004, Hart received a Grammy for his philanthropic contribution to the compilation BEAUTIFUL DREAMER: THE SONGS OF STEPHEN FOSTER. All of the proceeds from the recording benefited American Roots Publishing, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving American regional culture through literature and art.
In the summer of 2005, fortified in the wake of much recognition and determined to defy any stereotypes attached to his artistry, Hart released the self-produced (and personal favorite) MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER a rock guitar free-for-all, paying homage to fallen and missing rockers like Phil Lynott and Sly Stone. Hart’s songwriting, singing and electric guitar prowess are all championed on this project and showcase the versatility he continuously strives to offer his fans and profession.
In 2006, Hart collaborated with several Memphis area musicians in the Craig Brewer cult hit film “Black Snake Moan” by both serving as a guitar tutor to the film’s leading actor, Samuel L. Jackson, and recording a duet with the film’s female lead, Christina Ricci, for the films riveting soundtrack. In the fall of 2006, Hart was invited to hit the road for two months with Rock-n-Roll legend Bo Diddley for what turned out to be Diddley’s final coast to coast tour.
In April of 2007, Hart’s extended and varied interests led him to influence his local educational arena by participating on a tour of Mississippi high schools as a member of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.
Hart then joined fellow notable string playing colleagues Corey Harris, Don Vappie, Keb Mo and Guy Davis and contributed to the uniquely progressive 2007 OtisTaylor record RECAPTURING THE BANJO.
Later that year, Hart was called upon to contribute his doyen knowledge of blues music to the Denzel Washington-co produced and directed film “The Great Debaters.” Based on a true story about the black historical Wiley College debate team, the release of the film coincided with a nationally stepped-up effort by urban debate leagues to get hundreds of inner-city and financially challenged schools to establish debate programs.
As an avid roots music performer and connoisseur, not only did Hart fit the bill to record predominately on the films dynamic soundtrack, Hart also proved a natural onscreen fit for the role of a juke joint musician. Songs for the GREAT DEBATERS SOUNDTRACK were comprised of remakes of traditional blues and gospel songs from the 1920s and 1930s and were hand-picked by Denzel Washington from over 1000 selections.
A personal career highlight occurred in the summer of 2008 when Hart met the late Irish guitar legend Gary Moore. Moore invited Hart, a lifelong Thin Lizzy fan, onstage to jam with himself and original Thin Lizzy drummer, Brian Downey. In the Spring of 2009 Moore requested Hart’s band as the opening act on a tour of Germany. Moore was seen offstage most every night with friends, cheering Hart’s band along during their set.
In 2010 Hart joined forces with friends Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars, Black Crowes) and Jimbo Mathus (Squirrel Nut Zippers, Tri-State Coalition) to form “The South Memphis String Band”. The fun-loving and regaling trio was quickly dubbed by the media as an “acoustic super group”. Recorded in a borrowed radio station studio while the band was on its first road trip, their debut record HOME SWEET HOME was received with rabid enthusiasm. The 2011 Blues Music Awards (The Blues Foundation) nominated the record for “Best Acoustic Album”. The group plans to release a second album in the spring of 2012.
When not touring solo or plugged in with his revered rock trio “Muscle Theory,” Hart enjoys researching, collecting, repairing and modifying obscure musical equipment.
For more information on Alvin Youngblood Hart’s career, check out the following documentaries:
The Soul of a Man (Wim Wenders)
The Blues: A Musical Journey (Martin Scorcese)
Last of the Mississippi Jukes (Robert Mugge)