25 Highland Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Dale Ott
Boston based blues guitarist Paul Rishell has taken harmonica player Annie Raines on as a full partner for I WANT YOU TO KNOW, a sampling of sixteen cuts for 51:16 of acoustic & electric tunes that show what a good guitar/harmonica partnership can sound like. Five cuts are Rishell/Raines (or Raines/Rishell) compositions and two are trad/arranged by R/R. The remaining nine are cuts by well known blues artists from the thirties to the sixties, from such frequently covered tunes as Big Bill Broonzy's "Key to the Highway" to lesser known ones by Barbecue Bob and Peg Leg Howell. All performances are done with both feet firmly in tradition, yet with an ear for clean production and a great sense of musical teamwork between the two artists.
Paul Rishell sings and plays electric guitar & National Steel, both fingerstyle and slide. Annie Raines sings and plays harmonica & piano. Three cuts have added bass & drums by Damian & Chuck Purro. Ronnie Earl helps out with some nice electric guitar on three cuts. John Sebastian plays acoustic guitar and Jay Ungar plays mandolin on the title song. There is a mystery instrument (maybe an organ?) on the last cut, a different but tastefully done version of the traditional tune "John Henry." Several cuts also have a percussive device, either a stomp board or a kick pedal presumably operated by Rishell, providing a little more rhythm.
The disc starts with a nice uptempo tune, "Step It Up & Go" (Blind Boy Fuller), with Rishell playing fingerstyle steel and doing the vocals. E. Duarto Scheer plays washboard and Raines plays harp. She has obviously mastered the technique of circular breathing as she holds one note for a full twelve bars.
The next few cuts stay in the acoustic style, with one featuring Raines on vocals. Raines' harp work garners a holler of appreciation from somebody in the studio when she pulls off a chromatic walkdown at the end of one turnaround on "I Want You To Know."
"Nothin' But The Devil" (Jerry West) marks the first major style change on the disc. Rishell's slide guitar is electric and Raines' harp is obviously through a Green Bullet style mic for a great Chicago sound. Rishell's spare vocals contrast nicely with Raines' rich harp tone.
"Ol' Heartbreak" (Raines/Rishell) has a rockabilly sound with the addition of drums & bass. Raines does the vocals and the harp is again Chicago style. Rishell plays rhythm while Ronnie Earl plays some nice counterpoint.
"Blues For Tampa Red" (Rishell/Raines) is an acoustic slide/harp instrumental, of note for its brilliant arrangement. Nowhere on this disc is the interplay between these two musicians more evident than on this cut. Trading licks, playing in unison, trading off between lead & rhythm, it's all here and done very well, both technically & artistically.
I WANT YOU TO KNOW has a lot of variety while remaining within the genre and not losing its focus. Both artists are able to clearly express themselves through their instruments. The production is clean and the performances by the guest musicians are tasteful and effective. Paul Rishell & Annie Raines may end up taking a place in the annals of guitar/harmonica duos.