Blues duo Paul Rishell and Annie Raines (Paul and Annie) played nearly two hours of masterful acoustic country blues last night at the legendary Club Passim, just off of Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA. The house was nearly at Passim's full capacity of 125 people, and the audience was attentive and appreciative.
Paul and Annie features Paul on guitar and Annie on blues harmonica, with both sharing vocal duties. Paul mostly played his gorgeous National Reso-Phonic guitar, and Annie switched to an equally beautiful Rigel mandolin on a few tunes.
One of the things I most appreciate about Paul and Annie is their knowledge of blues history and the old time blues masters. We heard Paul tell stories of Scrapper Blackwell, Jelly Roll Morton, Washington Phillips, and Bo Carter. Annie told us of Ma Rainey ("Mother of the Blues") and Bessie Smith. By far the most jaw-dropping story of the night was told by Paul about Tommy Johnson. Tommy, it seems, had his demons and addictions, not unlike many of the blues legends. Tommy's particular problem was alcohol, and he was known to drink anything and everything that had alcohol in it, including hair tonic, shoe polish, and, yes, sterno - which is also known as "canned heat". Thus the origin of Tommy's Canned Heat Blues (not to mention the origin of the name of the Canned Heat band from the 60s):
I woked up, up this morning, with canned heat on my mind
Woked up this morning, canned heat was on my mind
Woke up this morning, with canned heat, Lord, on my mind
Crying, Lord, Lord, I wonder, canned heat, Lord, killing me
I was thrilled to hear Paul say a few kind words about another of my musical heros, Spider John Koerner, followed by a great rendition of Spider John's Good Luck Child.
Audience favorites included Paul and Annie's own Got To Fly, an infectious and catchy tune that Annie sings, as well as the rousing Old Man Mose (a Louis Armstrong composition). We were singing along on both tunes, particularly well on the latter's chorus in a call-and-response fashion:
Now one time there lived an old man
With a very crooked nose
He lived inside a log hut
and they called him ol' man Mose
One dark and dreary morning I knocked upon his door
I didn't hear a single sound
so I ain't gonna do it no more.
'cos I believe ol' man, I believe ol' man
I believe ol' man, that ol' man Mose is dead.
I believe ol' man, I believe ol' man
I believe ol' man, that ol' man Mose is dead.
The evening's songs ranged from achingly slow and beautiful (It'll Be Me/I'll Be Looking For You), to the tongue-in-cheek humorous (Bessie Smith's You Been a Good Ol' Wagon), to soulful gospel (Washington Phillips' I Had A Good Father and Mother), to rousing blues (Johnny Winter's Dallas).
If you see that Paul and Annie are going to be playing near you, give 'em a chance. You won't be disappointed.
As always, here are some YouTube clips to give you an idea. First up, a short clip of Paul and Annie doing Johnny Winter's Dallas. This really showcases Paul's vocals and National Steel guitar:
And on this clip, Annie's blues harmonica will blow you away:
Paul Rishell & Annie Raines
Passim Folk Music and Cultural Center, Cambridge, MA
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Custard Pie (Blind Boy Fuller)
Trouble Blues (Scrapper Blackwell)
Honey It Must Be Love (Blind Willie McTell)
It'll Be Me / I'll Be Looking For You (Jack Clement / Paul Rishell)
Got To Fly (Annie Raines / Paul Rishell)
I'm Gonna Jump and Shout (author?)
Black-Eyed Blues (Ma Rainey)
Dallas (Johnny Winter)
Ragtime Millionaire (William Moore)
You Been a Good Ol' Wagon (Bessie Smith)
Michigan Water Blues (Jelly Roll Morton)
Old Man Mose (Louis Armstrong / Zilner Randolph)
I Had A Good Father and Mother (Washington Phillips)
You're The One (Jimmy Rogers)
That Old Heartbreak (author?)
I Get The Blues (Bo Carter)
Canned Heat Blues (Tommy Johnson)
Good Luck Child (Spider John Koerner)
Encore: Some These Days (Charlie Patton)
Photography Notes: This was my second outing with my new Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens, and I must say I am loving it. A full set of 22 pictures are posted in a Flickr set if you want to see more than just the
three four I included here. I did crop each photo, and also used an unsharp mask on each. I didn't do any color adjustments, though, and you can see that the lighting color on Annie was vastly different than on Paul - Paul's skin looks quite natural, while Annie is bathed in a pretty ghastly orange-yellow. I was tempted, but I left Annie's color alone - she really did look that way. Also I couldn't really do much with that Passim banner in the background which, from my vantage point, split both Paul and Annie right down the middle of their heads.