‘Rebel’ Rod’s Reviews – Two classic reissues – Yank Rachell and Henry Gray
By ‘Rebel’ Rod Ames
This review is long over-due because I believe both recordings have already been reissued as of the end of March, but if you have not picked up these reissues, you are truly depriving yourself.
Yank Rachell’s “Blues Mandolin Man” and Henry Gray’s “Lucky Man” were both originally released back in circa 1990, and how they ever went unnoticed to me will just have to remain a mystery, because I’m too deeply ashamed of myself to delve any further into it than this one small paragraph.
Yank Rachell teaches us, much like “Louie Bluie” did; that the mandolin along with the fiddle, are much more than bluegrass instruments. Mr. Rachell proves that his mandolin is an extremely versatile instrument, originally used in both ragtime and bluegrass arenas.
The old ragtime tunes from the early 1900’s frequently incorporated both fiddle and mandolin. Proving to this reviewer once again, that most forms of music are very close cousins to one another, especially the genres of ragtime, blues, bluegrass, country, and even some rock ‘n roll.
When it comes to playing blues mandolin, Yank Rachell does things on his that go way beyond extraordinary. If you are into the blues just one iota, you will need to add this jewel of a record to your collection.
The album has nine tunes on it including, “My Baby’s Gone”, “Moonshine Whiskey”, “She Changed the Lock”, “Bugle Call”, “Dreamy Eyed Woman”, “Cigarette Blues”, “Make My Love Come Down”, “Black Snake”, and “Des Moines, Iowa”.
All nine tunes were written and performed by James “Yank” Rachell. He is backed up by Leonard Marsh, Jr. on drums, Sheena Rachell on electric bass, Peter Roller on electric and acoustic guitars, and Peter “Madcat” Ruth on the harmonica.
Henry Gray’s “Lucky Man” does for the piano what Yank Rachell does for the mandolin. By that, I mean he takes his instrument to a higher level. He eloquently mixes boogie- Chicago is where his musical roots were, and he played with blues greats such as Jimmy Reed, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Rogers, Little Walter, Billy Boy Arnold, and Morris Pejoe before hooking up with Howlin’ Wolf in 1956 where he stayed for the next 12 years.
This gem contains twelve amazing tunes – “My Girl Josephine”, “Cold Chills”, “Gray’s Bounce”, “Out on the Road”, “Lucky, Lucky Man”, “I’ll Be Up Again Someday”, “Mojo Boogie”, “Mean Old World”, “I’m Talkin’ About You”, “It Ain’t No Use”, “Boogie in the Dark”, and my personal favorite, “Finger Snappin’ Boogie”.
Of course it features Henry Gray on piano and vocals who is backed up by Steve Freund on guitar, Andy Cornett on bass for two cuts (“It Ain’t No Use” & “Lucky, Lucky Man”), Bob Stroger on bass for the rest of the record, and finally Willie Smith on drums.
Even though it was recorded in the late 80’s, you will think you’re standing outside Chess Records or somewhere on the streets of Chicago in the 1950’s. It’s always amazing to me how these sounds that garnered fame via labels such as Chess back in the 50’s, still have such a fresh sound today.
Both of these records are sonically timeless. You can close your eyes and magically transport yourself back to those days, or open your eyes and be right here in the right now. It doesn’t matter. They are both fantastic recordings no matter where in time you happen to exist.
Both records have been re-issued by the ever-reliable Blind Pig Records and a big hat tip to them for doing so.
‘Rebel’ Rod says check them both out!