Since doing their first gig together at a party for Ivy League alumni in 1992, guitarist Paul Rishell and harmonica player Annie Raines have become the unofficial king and queen of country blues in Boston. At 17, Raines was studying the book Harmonica for the Musically Hopeless, when a friend gave her some Muddy Waters tapes and changed her life. She learned quickly and began sneaking in to the Sunday blues jams at the 1369 Club, eventually joining the band Some Blues By Butch. Years earlier, Rishell was a drummer in surf bands, who switched to guitar at 13. A friend played a couple of records for him: the 1941 Library of Congress Son House recordings, and Blues, Rags & Hollers by Koerner, Ray and Glover. The blues changed his life, too.
They met in 1989 when, through a mutual friend, Raines sat in at a gig with Rishell’s band. After a few more of those, she started contributing to his solo acoustic gigs, and they eventually became a duo with steady work at both the Sit ‘n Bull Pub in Maynard and House of Blues in Boston. Raines, whose playing has been compared to Little Walter and Sonny Terry, also had yearlong stints with The Tarbox Ramblers and The Susan Tedeschi Band.
Rishell is equally at home on his 1956 Martin 000-18 or any of his National Steel guitars, and took up the pedal steel a few years ago. Raines has added playing mandolin, piano and guitar. In the fall of 2011, Rishell will begin a stint as a visiting instructor at Berklee College of Music as part of the school’s new Roots program.
Their most recent recording was 2008’s A Night in Woodstock (a DVD of the live performance came out in 2010). Rishell also recently finished making a solo album that’s a tribute to bluesmen including Blind Blake, Lemon Jefferson, Willie Brown, and Charlie Patton – in Rishell’s words, “the blues guitar heroes of the ’20s and ’30s.”
(by Ed Symkus)