Currently based in Ireland, Randall Lee Rainwater's roots lie in Appalachia. The sound of the slide guitar was a particular inspiration, and this shines through on "Rainwater Rd." Originally recorded in 1998 and released in 1999 to critical acclaim, particularly by the Blues Revue staff, the album has recently been reinvigorated by a distribution deal
with Red Lick mail order company in the UK.
Rainwater cuts straight to the chase with "Dust My Britches." The first of eight original tunes, it highlights Rainwater's talents as a first rate fingerpicker and tunesmith. Like most of the other original tunes here, this one sits comfortably alongside its pre-war companions from the blues and gospel traditions. The first two of these, "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burnin'" and "Statesboro Blues" provide the bridge to the next original, another fine instrumental in the shape of the title track, where Rainwater
shows his talents as a slide guitarist. The next original instrumental, "Elijah's Tune"--presumably for Rainwater's son--has a strong Hawaiian flavor to the slide.
After an upbeat reading of Leadbelly's "Western Plain," Rainwater's own "Cherokee Tears" offers a sharp contrast in mood. It has a kind of eerie feel to it, and is the sort of tune that Ry Cooder always used to write for movie soundtracks. The mood is almost like the aftermath of a great battle, and the ending suggests the rain beginning to fall. Things then get more upbeat again on "Done Been Up North Too Long," before another Gospel
interlude with an instrumental cover of "Tell It To Jesus."
Rainwater returns to dip into the repertoire of Blind Willie Johnson one more time for a passionate reading of "Motherless Children." He then takes things home with another atmospheric instrumental, "Dobro Moon," and one last dip into the spiritual song book ("Swing Low Sweet Chariot"), finally rounding off with another instrumental "Cool Vibe." It is one of those fairly simple catchy tunes that ensures that the album lingers on long after the CD player has come to a halt.
"Rainwater Rd" is a very fine album, that deserves a wider audience. Those who like their acoustic blues (and gospel) to sound authentic should track down "Rainwater Rd" at their earliest opportunity. Of his contemporaries, the most obvious comparison is Steve James. Rainwater is a very accomplished guitarist--all of the tracks were recorded live in the studio--with a fine voice, and the quality of the originals is such that they stand up well alongside the covers. The fact that "Rainwater Rd" is an album that nearly got away unnoticed borders on the criminal.
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