Grant Dermody (DER-muh-dee) is a harmonica player, singer, songwriter, and teacher from Seattle, Washington. Described as “an understated harmonica virtuoso and a vocalist of subtlety and warmth” by Don McLeese of No Depression magazine, Grant is a highly versatile musician.
A lifelong student of the harmonica and acoustic blues, Grant’s latest release is the masterful Lay Down My Burden. The album’s 16 tracks hear him and a phenomenal lineup of 26 guest stars – including many of the blues’ elder statesmen — intertwining original songs and timeless covers, a set that displays his pioneering approach alongside of his commitment to the timeless traditions of the blues.
Grant’s musical travels have seen him playing with many of America’s most beloved acoustic musicians. In 2010, he embarked on a successful international tour with guitarist Eric Bibb. Previous explorations saw him performing in a trio with Orville Johnson and John Miller, live and on their 2006 release Deceiving Blues. In addition, Dermody has performed with blues legends Leon Bib, Honeyboy Edwards, Robert Lowery, Big Joe Duskin, John Dee Holeman, and Cephas & Wiggins. Guitar maestro Frank Fotusky is also a touring co-conspirator.
Beyond the blues, Grant is passionate about old-time music. As a member of The Improbabillies, whose 1998 self-titled CD made a serious splash in the old-time world, Grant brought a unique blues sensibility and an innovative harmonica style to that genre.
An excellent accompanist, Grant uses his instrument to add just the right shade, feel or energy to a player, piece or project. He has played on several of Seattle based singer/songwriter Jim Page’s recordings, and was a guest artist on Dan Crary’s, Rennaissance of the Steel String Guitar. Dan described Grant’s playing on “Reedy’s Blues,” as “powerful and beautiful,” and referred to him as, “One of the best studio musicians I have ever worked with.”
Ask other harmonica players about Grant’s style, and they all point to his big, warm, wide-open tone, his ability to bring his own voice to a wide variety of musical styles, and his subtle, un-hurried approach. Though Grant spends most of his musical time playing acoustic music, he never hesitates to plug in and lay down some Chicago Blues.
A dedicated mentor of the instrument, Grant has taught harmonica for many years in both private and group settings nationwide to students of all ages. Teaching venues have included Blues Week at The Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins West Virginia, The Country Blues Workshop in Port Townsend, Washington, and the Telluride Acoustic Blues Camp in Telluride, Colorado, and Blues Week at The University of Northhampton in the United Kingdom. Grant has taught hundreds of kids in elementary schools throughout the Seattle area how to play the harmonica.
In performances, recordings, and teaching engagements, Grant’s soulful sound shines through, inspiring listeners and fellow musicians. As Don McLeese put it, Grant “not only renews an acoustic legacy, but extends it.”
Grant Dermody is one of those journeyman musicians whose time-tested style makes him the ideal practitioner of backwoods blues. With Sun Might Shine on Me he applies his harmonica skills in a variety of settings, from the hills of Appalachia to the Crescent City and its Creole confines. The fact that he’s able to shift environs so seamlessly gives credence to his versatility, but it’s equally impressive to find him assembling such a sympathetic ensemble in support of his endeavors, among the players, multi-faceted musician Dirk Powell. Dermody’s ramshackle technique adds some homespun appeal, particularly when it comes to the unassuming approach evidenced on “Boll Weevil”, “Just a Little While” and “Tree of Life”. Both spirited and spiritual, Sun Might Shine on Me carries with it a warm embrace.
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