** Sing Out! Fall 2008 Review of Yank Rachell Tribute CD:
The late Yank Rachell was loved and respected by those fortunate enough to know him and, even more, by those who had the pleasure of making music with him. This tribute album, long in development, reflects those feelings and was well worth the wait. The musical quality and energy throughout the album make it a treasury of fine mandolin blues, and a compliment to the memory of a fine bluesman. While he is now recognized as a giant of the blues tradition, Yank was less successful than other blues musicians of his generation. Most of his life he worked in farming and factory jobs to support his family, and so was a musician only part-time. Yet he stands with others in the center of the tradition, recognized throughout the blues world as one of its key figures. He wrote many classic country blues; his mandolin-playing is recognized as having established the mandolin as a great blues instrument.
The twenty-one tribute tracks here include performances by a wide array of performers: Andra Faye, Rich DelGrosso, David Grisman, Karen Irwin, Tim O’Brien, Jim Richter, Pete Rowan, John Sebastian, Mike Seeger, and others. Songs include Yank classics (“Divin’ Duck Blues,” “She Caught the Katy,” “Texas Tony,” “Wadie Green,” etc); while others are classic blues like “Sitting on Top of the World” and “Deep Elem Blues.” As deeply enjoyable as this album is, the contrast with the charm of Yank’s own recordings is significant: excellent voices (Andra Faye, Karen Irwin), tight arrangements, and recordings with mandolin out from contrast with Yank’s appealingly rough voice and relaxed arrangements, with mandolin often in the background. You can enjoy Yank himself on YouTube, playing the “Mailman Blues” with Sleepy John Estes in 1966. If you’re a mandolin player and reinspired by this album, check out Jim Richter’s YouTube blues mandolin lessons, and thank him for his role (along with many others) in bringing out this album to benefit Yank’s family.
**Nuvo Newsweekly May 6, 2009 Review of Yank Rachell Tribute CD:
Tribute to the Legendary Blues Mandolin Man James “Yank” Rachell
NUVO rates it 4 out of 5 stars
As one might expect, this tribute to country blues mandolinist Yank Rachell, released last year but never given a full review in this paper, is chock-full of mandolin, recorded in all corners of the globe (or at least as far away as Sweden). Which is a good thing: The project has enough cred and is unique enough to attract some big names like John Sebastian and Mike Seeger, but also gives a chance for masters of the mandolin to have a shot at some of Rachell’s tunes.
Briefly, Rachell was first heard at the advent of electric recording in the mid ’20s, playing in a jug band with Sleepy John Estes. John Sebastian, in a spoken introduction to the live track he contributes to the record, recalls his astonishment in hearing Rachell’s voice on the phone when the mandolinist called him up in the mid ’90s. But Rachell, who moved to Indianapolis in 1956, lived until 1997, enough time for Sebastian to record with him.
Sebastian’s cover of “Tappin’ That Thing” — recorded with David Grisman — is about the most fun to be had on the record. It’s a double-entendre tune (the music reference being to tapping or playing a mandolin), and includes audience participation, as well as Sebastian’s intro that recounts the recording process.
It’s not necessarily the most moving tune, though; there are two others that really stand out. Former Rocky Ripple resident Andra Faye’s performance of the lament “My Baby’s Gone,” recorded solo on string bass and mandolin, doesn’t tug at the heartstrings unnecessarily, but it’s just a flawless rendition; the music effortlessly swings, and Faye’s voice is crystal clear. Sheena Rachell, Yank Rachell’s granddaughter, sings “Lake Michigan Blues” slowly and mournfully, suggesting a late night at the blues club by someone who’s down on her luck (and Rachell doesn’t come by a weakened warble incidentally, as she’s faced serious health problems recently).
The 21-track album only includes a few clunkers. Also noteworthy are the opening two tracks, “Texas Tony” and “Shotgun Blues,” both about crimes of passion, and played by two masterful blues mandolinists, Tim O’Brien and Rick DelGrosso. Mike Seeger’s rendition of “Deep Elam Blues” wanders a little away from the mandolin; he performs on a Vega mandurria, a mandolin-like instrument with a little more bass. And a duet between Gordon Bonham (guitar) and Jim Richter (mandolin) on “Brownsville Blues” was my favorite contribution by locals(emphasis by JR), though there are also fine performances by singer Karen Irwin, guitarist Scott Ballantine and mandolinist Mike Butler, who plays on Rachell’s Harmony mandolin on a few tunes (and also executive produced the CD).
Link to the original article: http://www.nuvo.net/music/article/tribute-yank-rachell-cd-review