"Moving to the Country" is a cracker of an album that offers something for everyone. There's a mixture of the country and the urban, the acoustic and the electric, and a cornucopia of band line-ups: solo, duo, band, and "big band." It's a collection of great songs, performed by a set of accomplished musicians.
The album opens in a band setting with a down home arrangement--in which Raines makes her recording debut on mandolin--of medicine show performer Jim Jackson's "Kansas City Blues." It sets the standards of musicianship for the rest of the album. The band setting is retained for the title track which follows. It has a wonderful earthy feel to it, with Raines almost blowing the back off her harp.
Rishell then takes center stage for "My Washerwoman's Gone." by husband and wife Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie. It's the first solo piece on which Rishell shows how good a fingerpicker he is. The other is a version of "Sweet Jivin' Mama," a song by another fine guitarist, Blind Blake.
Raines adds vocals on the first of two Bo Carter tunes: "I Get the Blues," the other is "Twist It Babe." These are interspersed with three band tracks. Leadbelly's "Keep Your Hands Off Her," is followed by a couple of originals, the first of which ("Sweet Tooth"), offers an instrumental tribute to the legacy of great harp instrumentals.
The instrumental "Vanessa" was written for Rishell's young daughter. It's a wonderfully uncomplicated tune that just makes you want to lie back and relax, thinking about all the good things in life. The relaxed mood continues on "Turning Corner," which sees the band return, replete with horns. There's some fine piercing electric guitar in the Albert King style from Rishell on this one.
The album closes with a return to the guitar and harp duo. Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli's "Tears" is cleverly arranged so that the violin parts are played on chromatic harp. The best, however, is saved until last. It's an arrangement of Joe Calicott's "Fare Thee Well" which shows Rishell and Raines at their finest. The original was just a solo effort on guitar. A harp part has been added, and the fact that it works so well is further evidence of the Rishell/Raines synergy. Rishell is also in superb voice, delivering it in a lazy drawl. Currently my favorite track of the year.
Paul Rishell and Annie Raines "Moving to the Country" is a welcome addition to the current renaissance in acoustic Blues. It's much more than just an acoustic Blues album, however, and shows that they are equally at home in an electric setting, and with a band. The way that they handle the range of material and styles, always adding their own ingredients, is testament to the quality of their musicianship. Highly recommended.
This review is copyright © 1999 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.