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Mitch Kashmar

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Mitch Kashmar
Loafers Harmonica Blues Dance Party II
with Lil Ronnie and the Grand Dukes and Greg "Fingers" Taylor
Loafers Beach Club, 3914 Atlantic Ave., Raleigh
Saturday, Dec. 16, 8 p.m.-2 a.m.
Tickets: $15

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The music oozed up from the bottomlands. The wind blew it from the big city by the lake. Some of it stuck around its birthplace and kept things jumpin', but plenty of it ended up on the left coast, in the hands and the mouths of harp players who mellowed it out without distilling its raw essence.

Mitch Kashmar is one of the California disciples who soaked up the sound and the soul of Chicago and Mississippi and Cali-customized it. His theory is the California harp scene started with Arkansas native George "Harmonica" Smith, who settled in L.A. soon after leaving Muddy Waters' band.

"Rod [Piazza] got some of it and Kim Wilson got some," Kashmar says of Smith's fat, rounded tones, which often sounded more like an entire horn section than a man with a harmonica. "I got some of it from them."

Like Wilson, The Fabulous Thunderbirds singer and harmonica legend, Kashmar grew up in Santa Barbara. "[Wilson] would come back at holiday time, climb down from the T-Birds and play gigs with us," says Kashmar, who played with Wilson in 1981 while the T-Birds were recording Butt Rockin'. "He's one of those guys who'll do it right up till it's over and then some."

Kashmar's similar work ethic and harp skills just landed him a new job, too. "I went to an audition, got hired in a nine-hour rehearsal. I'm a member of WAR, man," he says proudly. "Low Riders," "Slippin' Into Darkness" and "Why Can't We Be Friends" now go into Kashmar's repertoire, alongside a stunning version of Little Walter's "Dead Presidents."

Though Kashmar's versatile harp playing and soulful tenor have taken him all over the world (he's toured Russia three times) and now into a big-time rock band, there is one region he hasn't explored.

"I have not been in North Carolina," he says. "I'm looking forward to all that."

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