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August 1998

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Yank Rachells Tennessee Jug-Busters
Mandolin Blues

Yank Rachell's Mandolin BluesIn the early sixties there was a revival of the traditional blues artists of the20 and 30s. From this period came recordings that are real treasures of blues history, and this has to be one of the best mandolin blues I've yet to find.
Yes that’s right, mandolin blues. Today many fans are unaware of the influence of the banjo and mandolin in the ever constant evolution of blues music. I've always liked to “go to the well” and listen to the early masters, and this well runs deep.

The lineup on this recently-reissued CD is truly stellar. Any one of these artists could have been the leader of the group. Yank Rachell plays mandolin and sings, as well as some providing mandolin-influenced guitar on “Lonesome Blues."
Sleepy John Estes was also featured on guitar, with longtime partner Hammie Nixon on harmonica and jug. Delta blues legend Big Joe Williams also played guitar, with blues/rock pioneer Mike Bloomfield rounded out the lineup on guitar.

This great slice of history was recorded in two informal sessions at private homes in 1963. In the first session, tracks one through nine were recorded at Bloomfield’s Chicago apartment by Bob Koester and Pete Welding. The second session had to be moved to another residence. The liner notes give credit to Hammie’s foot stomping for dislodging the plaster from the ceiling of the apartment below the first residence. The second session was moved to the residence of Dan Queen for the remainder of the tracks. Yank, Hammie and Sleepy John were late for the session, so Big Joe began recording just with Mike Bloomfield until the others arrived. The sound quality on this project is quite good, and sounds like a studio recording.

Several tracks stand out as classics, like “Starvation In My
Kitchen,” a moderately slow blues which includes excellent mandolin leads by Rachell. “Move Your Hand” features a strong performance by Williams on vocals. The tracks which which feature Nixon on the jug most prominently are “Texas Tony” and “Move Your Hand,” on which Hammie fills the shoes of a bass player with a one gallon jug. “Get Your Mornin' Exercise” is a double entendre that needs little explanation.

Even if you have the previous LP record issue of this fine
Delmark release the CD contains six previously-unissued tracks that are well worth the purchase. Nixon’s jug playing really adds that back porch/juke joint feeling.

--- Mike Simpson

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