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A Tribute To James “Yank” Rachell - Various Artists

Yanksville Records

James “Yank” Rachell is most likely the best blues mandolin player and songwriter most people have never heard of. Not just an instrumentalist but also a fine and prolific songwriter, Rachell performed from the 1920s until his passing in 1997 and left a substantial legacy for those following him in the blues scene.

This album, a tribute to the man and his music, shows the depth of Yank’s influence and how much his songs have become part of the music we all love. Artists giving themselves to the project include John Sebastian, David Grisman, Andra Faye, Rich DelGrosso, and many others, all taking their shots at Rachell’s songs and playing style. The tunes are a gas from start to finish and are a bit refreshing to those used to hearing nothing but guitar-based blues.

Rachell’s best-known song is “She Caught The Katy,” which was used as the theme song for the original Blues Brothers movie and is covered here with a funky groove by Karen Irwin. Other standout tracks are “Texas Tony” by Tim O’Brien, Sebastian and Grisman’s live take of “Tappin’ That Thing,” and “Moonshine Whiskey,” which features Jerome Mills on vocals and Mike Butler playing Rachell’s Harmony mandolin.

Through it all, the songs and performances are inspired and entertaining, making this no mere history lesson, but a record that begs to be played over and over. It is a fitting homage to a lesser-known player who deserves a higher profile. Those looking for new blues to listen to this summer would do well to look here.

Reviewer Mike O'Cull is a noted Chicago music writer and Blues Blast contributor. Visit his MySpace page at:

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