Ann Rabson with Bob Margolin

Ann Rabson with Bob Margolin
Not Alone

VizzTone

By Karen Nugent
January 2013

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It was the day before Thanksgiving.

I was stuck in traffic, late for an appointment, and trying to listen to this CD in preparation for writing the review when about halfway through the 12 tracks I got caught up in Margolin’s original, “Let It Go.”

Especially this refrain: “You can’t make it better, but you can sure make it worse/So before you throw a punch, take a breath and let it go.”

I know - the song’s title sounds like something from a yoga class, but Rabson’s funky N’awlins-style piano playing, paired with Margolin’s dazzling guitar, makes it the best song on the disc. The lyrics are both funny and poignant, and I played it over and over.

In what seems to have become a recent phenomenon, this is an acoustic, sort of stripped down recording with no other musicians or instruments, and frankly, I am not a big fan of this trend. But these two old friends make it work - most of the time.

Rabson, formerly of the popular but now disbanded Saffire – The Uppity Blues Women band, has selected her blues favorites, including “Caledonia” (on which her playing reminds me of her old pal Pinetop Perkins, in whose memory the CD is dedicated), “How Long Blues” (very well done) and “Let’s Go Get Stoned.”

The disk includes songs by Percy Mayfield, EG Kight, Louis Jordan, and Leroy Carr. Margolin’s is the only original. (Do we really still need to say he “played with Muddy Waters?” I think not.)

Rabson, who has been nominated for nine Blues Music Awards, has a husky, soulful, voice and handles the vocals nicely. Her sense of humor is obvious, and she has fun with the “Let’s Get Drunk and Truck” and “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby.”

Margolin’s tasteful accompaniments partner nicely, and he gets his well-known heart-palpitating riffs in most of the tunes, and sings three of them himself.

The CD is mellow, perhaps harkening back to when Pinetop himself played without electric backing. It would be best played in a quiet bar or restaurant. Sometimes Rabson, who has been performing since the 1960s, sounds a bit torch-song on vocals.

But these two fine musicians have worked together on and off for 20 years or so, since they met at a Saffire show in 1987.

They make it work.

Perhaps Ann puts it best herself, in this comment from the liner notes:

“People who don’t know better imagine the blues is always sad, but that’s not true. There are happy, nasty, good-time blues that make you feel good, and sad blues that make you feel like you’re not alone. It’s not even that simple, though. There’s a whole pantheon of subjects for the blues. This recording contains some songs I wanted to set down for the future…” — Ann Rabson

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