The Ragpicker String Band review…August 14, 2015…

THE RAGPICKER STRING BAND

THE RAGPICKER STRING BAND

YELLOW DOG RECORDS  YDR 2242

HONEY BABE–MINOR BLUES–GOOGLE BLUES–BLUE MONK–CLEAN UP AT HOME–MOTEL TOWEL–BABY WHERE YOU BEEN–BLACK MATTIE–LONELY ONE IN THIS TOWN–BY YOUR SIDE–MILKCOW BLUES–TRIMMED AND BURNING–STREET DOCTOR BLUES–BRUNO’S DREAM

The Ragpicker String Band consist of three of the best string players on the planet, having garnered between them nine Blues Music Award nominations.  Yes, their self-titled album brings together that mandolin man, Rich Del Grosso, acclaimed fingerpicker Mary Flower on guitar and lap slide, and multi-instrumentalist Martin Grosswendt.

This is a vintage acoustic-blues-lover’s dream.  Over the course of fourteen tracks, these three giants breathe new life into songs by The Mississippi Sheikhs, Sleepy John Estes, Lil Johnson and others, mixed with their own originals written in the same styles.  Another sweet thing about this set aside from everyone’s string mastery is their tight vocal harmonies throughout.

Mary plays the forlorn lover to the hilt on “Minor Blues” and hee own “Baby Where You Been,” all punctuated by her fabulous fretwork.  All three show their prowess on a jazzy instrumental read of “Blue Monk,” and close the set with a pastoral, peaceful cut, another of Mary’s originals, “Bruno’s Dream,” with everyone meshing perfectly.

Rich Del Grosso is in fine form, too, both in his playing and that deep-from-the-soul baritone delivery.  He has a lot of fun with “Black Mattie,” the sly humor of his original “Street Doctor Blues,” giving “sweet dreams to lost souls,” and another original “love song” with a rhumba-esque beat, “you can count on me, baby, to be By Your Side.”  Martin’s no slouch, either, giving fine vocal reads on the playful “Clean Up At Home,” and the slyly-sexy “Milkcow Blues.”

We had two favorites, too.  Mary takes the lead vocal on the traditional “Trimmed And Burning,” giving it a strong gospel feel, urging us to “don’t stop praying, for this old world is almost done.”  And, Rich brings this vintage music into the social media age with one of the most humorous songs we’ve heard in quite some time.  “Google Blues” finds Rich on lead vocal hittin’ on a woman in a bar that has “free Wi-Fi,” and she “pulled up all my shady past when she Googled me!”

The Ragpicker String Band has brought fans an album that is a stringed and vocal tour-de-force.  These three outstanding musicians give these tunes a fresh coat of paint while staying true to their blues roots.  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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