Last week, a day earlier than I was expecting, I received a package from Cain Hamilton (aka Sugar Cain) containing this, one of the first of his new “Semi-Custom” Marine Band harmonicas in A.
This is the entry level line in his range. Not fancy, but a good honest workhorse. The comb is sealed and I assume made properly flat. It’s finish is enjoyably smooth and the tine ends and corners have been very slightly rounded for comfort, as have the exposed reed plates. The bottom cover plate has been made slightly conical to eliminate the possibility of reed rattle on the low notes.
The first thing you notice on playing is how sweet it sounds. These are not brash harmonicas and if you’re used to playing Marine Band Deluxe’s and Crossovers as I am it can take some getting used to.
It’s tuned to 7 limit Just Intonation making the chords and octave splits incredibly creamy and lush. Cain takes pride in his reed work and it shows. It’s very responsive and capable of a great range of dynamics and expressiveness. The bends are clear and strong. The thing is just straight-up fun to play.
As you might expect it doesn’t quite match up to the Honey Dripper model which is next up in the range but the differences are hard to quantify. I suspect there’s more work done on the Honeydripper’s comb as they do seem to play a little stronger. There’s not much in it though.
To be honest, when I get a good one I’m perfectly happy playing a Marine Band Deluxe, Crossover or even a Special 20 but Cain is making superior instruments which more than justify the extra cost.