Paul Rishell (guitars) and Annie Raines (harmonicas and mandolin) are two of the most talented instrumentalists playing traditional blues today. For their superb first full album as a duo, I Want You to Know
(1995), the Bostonians infused their music with various electric touches. Moving to the Country
continues this trend, but not at the expense of tradition.
This second release again finds the pair playing ageless tunes by various blues pioneers (Jim Jackson, Memphis Minnie, Bo Carter, Leadbelly, Blind Blake, Joe Calicott), as well as some lively originals. About half the CD features a full band, while the other half showcases the duo in a sparer acoustic format. New this time are some overdubbed guitar parts by Rishell. Fortunately the overdubs do not detract in any way from the rootsy feel of the music.
Jim Jackson's sprightly 1927 song "Kansas City Blues" is propelled by Rishell's electric slide and Raines' recording debut on mandolin. Raines' real forte is harmonica, and a highlight here is her nifty blowing on the original boogie tune "Sweet Tooth." Raines blows some truly nasty harp throughout this album
Rishell is consistently good as well, but he shines brightest when he plucks his National Steel, as on Kansas City Joe McCoy's and Memphis Minnie's "My Washerman's Gone" and the ragtime-influenced original "Vanessa," written for his daughter. Whether its acoustic or electric guitar, Rishell knows his way around a fretboard.
Rishell and Raines even tackle a bluesy Django Reinhardt composition entitled "Tears," on which Raines plays Stephan Grappelli's violin parts on chromatic harmonica.
Neither Rishell nor Raines is a great vocalist, but each is more than capable. What distinguishes this music is the duo's heartfelt approach to traditional blues, not to mention their virtuoso musicianship. From electric originals to acoustic interpretations of 70-year-old songs, Moving to the Country
is a terrific collection of traditional blues with a modern twist.
Rating *** 1/2 (out of ****)
TRACKS: Kansas City Blues; Moving to the Country; My Washerwoman's Gone; I Get the Blues; Keep Your Hands off Her; Sweet Tooth; Good Women Have Bad Days; Twist It Babe; Vanessa; Turning Corner; Sweet Jivin' Mama; Tears; Fare Thee Well
PLAYERS: Paul Rishell (guitars, vocals); Annie Raines (harmonica, mandolin, keys, vocals); Gordon Beadle (sax); Marty Richards (drums); Scott Shetler (sax); Jesse Williams (bass); Damian Purro (bass); Troy Gonyea (guitar)