Random Chance Records CD reissue of the 1986 Blind Pig Records release of "Blues Mandolin Man" is a wonderful example of the early country bluesman, Yank Rachell, in a modern urban electric blues setting.
Known for being one of the rare blues mandolin players, Yank was a longtime playing partner of Sleepy John Estes and recorded with him as early as 1929 on the Victor label. He also played and recorded in the thirties with, among others, the great harmonica player John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson and was a composer who wrote songs that were recorded by John Lee Hooker, Big Joe Williams, and Jimmy Rogers.
"Blues Mandolin Man" features a vibrant mid 70’s Yank Rachell as a singer, songwriter, bandleader, and mandolin player. Singing with a "cryin the blues" style much in the manner of Sleepy John Estes, he follows and punctuates his vocal line with single and staccato bursts on his mandolin, utilizing his instrument in the semblance of another voice. Yank is backed by his granddaughter, Sheena Rachell, on the bass, Leonard Marsh Jr. on the drums, Peter Roller on guitar, and Peter "Mudcat" Ruth on the harmonica. He leads this restrained and tasteful band through ten of his own compositions as they respectfully showcase the elder statesman.
Yank yells, "the blues, the blues, the blues,...the blues!!" before he rips into his solo on "Make My Love Come Down" and "Blues Mandolin Man" is indeed, "the blues." Emotionally moving blues like "My Baby’s Gone" (which he played with Sleepy John Estes) and "Cigarette Blues." (a newer composition) Playful blues like "Moonshine Whisky" (which he played with John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson) and the dynamic instrumental highlight, "Bugle Call," which features Yank as the bandleader, shouting out who’s going to play next before he shouts out "everybody….everybody!!" as the dynamics take off. Also included is a previously unreleased demo recording of "Wadie Green."
Although not quite as agile in his 70’s as he was as a young man, Yank still emotes some of the fiery attack and raw power of his early days. This is an impressive recording from a unique bluesman tastefully backed by his band and a classic album well worth adding to your collection.
An interesting aside, the picture of Yank on the back of the CD cover was printed backwards. The negative was upside down when the picture was printed, making it appear as though he is playing left handed!
1999, Random Chance Records, PMB 208, 61 E. 8th St., New York, NY 10003
Phone: 1.212.353.2140 Fax: 1.212.460.5850
This review is copyright © 1999 by Stephen T. Davidson, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.