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music: Revisiting the Blues

Blues duo Paul Rishell and Annie Raines bring their blues pedigree to Richmond.


Style: If you could each have only one blues album, which would you choose as closest to your heart?
Annie Raines: I’m pretty passionately addicted to “Chicago Bound” by Jimmy Rogers. That’s the stuff I was originally aspiring to play, and I’m still aspiring to play it, as well.

Paul Rishell: “The Library of Congress recordings of 1941-42” by Son House. That was the first blues record I ever heard. I’d have to go with that, because I’m a traditional guy.

Paul, you were deeply inspired by Son House, whom you eventually studied with. What was it that grabbed you so much, and does Son House still hold up all these years later?

Rishell: Oh he definitely holds up! I think, overall, I recognized so many elements of his music in other music, but only one thing that was only in his music. And that’s honesty, real honesty in what he was doing. His music was from some place I could put my fingers on. It was very real to me. Of course I was 13 at the time. He was the elevator guy to another world. I got on and never came back.

Annie, what’s your focus in accompanying an acoustic guitarist?

Raines: The great thing about the harmonica is you can adapt it to sound like a variety of instruments — the saxophone, the guitar, the accordion, to name a few. You can throw yourself into different roles and the parts you play. I’ve always focused on parts, rather than just waiting for my turn.

Could you give two examples of how you perform a couple of classic old blues numbers?

Rishell: “Some of These Days” by Charley Patton we turned into a gospel song rather than a rhythm song. We turned it into a soul ballad, a gospel ballad. “Hunkie Tunkie” by Charley Jordan is from the early 1930s. I took the original guitar part but changed the time signature. I bent it, so it would accommodate a second guitar part. At one point the guitar part drops out altogether, and it turns into a boogie song for eight bars.

To each of you, what are the other’s strengths?

Rishell: She’s really intelligent, understands things quickly and makes adjustments and is not afraid of working hard. The most important thing is she cares and she’s sincere.

Raines: One of Paul’s greatest strengths is that his singing has always been really unique. He can make a sound that moves people around, and that’s something I envy to a high degree. And he has great taste — it’s not all about floods or chickens. It’s about something people can relate to. We’re trying to reach people, to connect, not languish in obscurity. S

Paul Rishell and Annie Raines will be performing at Shenanigan’s, 4017 MacArthur Ave., June 11 at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $10. Call 264-5010 for details.

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