"Yank" Rachell came from Brownsville, Tennessee. He was born in 1910, and legend has it that he was eight years old when he was out with the pigs, and met a man who had a mandolin. He came home one pig short, and carrying a mandolin! He was perhaps best known as the accompanist to Sleepy John Estes. I know that's where I first heard of him, from an early Ry Cooder record. Cooder talked about Estes and Rachell in interviews, and Ry also played a mean blues mandolin, so it gave us northerners a broader context for the blues than the British bands at the time were giving us. There was more to the blues than just Chicago blues recycled through England. There was real, original blues music being created by real, original blues musicians. I recall buying a Skip James LP, some Mississippi John Hurt and some Bukka White all on vinyl for the ridiculously low price of 39 cents! I still have those albums, and lots more.
Yesterday a CD came in the mail from Yanksville Records. It's called A Tribute to the Legendary Blues Mandolin Man James "Yank" Rachell, 1910-1997. That's quite a mouthful, but it's pretty much exactly what you get. Twenty-one tracks by artists like John Sebastian, Mike Seeger, David Grisman, Stanley Smith, Peter Rowan, Rich Del Grosso, and others who donated their time and effort to this project. And it's a goodun!
Mainly blues, as you might expect, and mainly focused on the mandolin, as you might also expect. But it's not some show-offy tribute disc like the standard thing we've seen lately. This is authentic music played honestly in tribute to a master. Production was overseen by Mike Butler with Al Smith, and engineered by Steve Creech
(with Brian Hanson and Shae Saylors). It sounds brilliant!
Yank's grand-daughter Sheena turns in a bravura performance on "Lake Michigan Blues" backed by Mike Butler on mandolin, Jim Lynch on slide guitar, Craig Smith on drums, Al Stone on bass and Guy Vreeman on Hammond B-3. But it's hard tob single out any one performance, they're all good. Karen Irwin's "My Mind Got Bad", Jim Richter et al, on "Brownsville Blues", Sebastian and Grisman doing "Tappin' That Thing"...I love it!
The monies raised will help out the Rachell family...so buy your own copy! It's well worth it! The website is here.