I have known Ann Rabson for a little over 25 years. I remember meeting her at a DC Blues Society picnic and seeing her, Gaye and Earline, the original line-up of Saffire-the Uppity Blues Women when they used to play regularly in a small Georgetown bistro and also at some Dc Blues Society events. It was a joy to see them go from being a local blues act to the world-spanning performers that they became. While Saffire has ended its run, Ann, Gaye and Andra Faye have continued with their own musical endeavors.
Some may now that Ann has had serious health issues recently so word of a new recording was warmly welcome. She is joined on this by Bob Margolin who adds his guitar and vocals to Ann’s piano and vocals. His presence gives the disc its title Not Alone on the Vizz-Tone Label release. There is a mix of familiar and lesser known songs that go down easy with good, heartfelt singing, solid musicianship and good feelings.
Ann is a straight-forward, two-handed pianist who eschews flash for her solid playing and there is plenty of her heart in her rendition of the late Thomas Dorsey’s I’m Going To Live the Life I Sing About In My Song, with Margolin adding some biting electric fills. Her touch and timing is assured throughout with her cover of Tampa Red’s Let’s Get Drunk and Truck, while she is wistful on Leroy Carr’s How Long Blues, on which Margolin shares the vocal in addition to his acoustic guitar break while it rides out with stately piano from Ann.
I am not familiar with Jim Ritchie, Ann sounds quite animated on his It Ain’t Love, with Margolin’s crying slide providing additional support. Margolin takes the reflective vocal on Memphis Slim’s Guess I’m a Fool, with Ann’s firm support under the vocal and Margolin playing in a jazzier vein here. Ann notes that Louis Jordan’s Caledonia is a fun number, although like almost every cover of I have heard (and that includes recordings by Muddy Waters, Pinetop Perkins and Gatemouth Brown), it is wonderfully played but does not stands out. Woody Herman is one of the few whose cover of the song captured some of the ebullience of Jordan’s original.
Ann’s matter-of-fact approach to Let’s Go Get Stoned in contrast provides a delightful personal rendition of a very well-known song. Ann’s tango-rooted Crescent City-flavored playing stands out behind Margolin’s Let It Go, a nice lyric calling for having perspective about things and if one cannot make things better, avoid making things worse. After a plaintive Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby, Ann gets things rollicking as she sings that Anywhere You Go, Ann can go there too and can love you like no one can do. After telling us that she has No Time For The Blues.
Bob handles the vocal on a sober reading of Percy Mayfield’s River’s Invitation. It is the final track of a very genial recording that captures Ann Rabson and Bob Margolin in an intimate, low-keyed setting that should delight many.
I received a review copy from the record company. Here is a video of Ann Rabson performing.