Rag Mama Rag: Some Ol’ Day (Blues in Britain Review)

This is an excellent release from husband and wife duo,
Ashley and Deborah Dow a beautifully observed and crafted piece of Country Blues, derivative by dint, but superbly
executed throughout the 12 track CD. None more so than the highlight lead-out track, ‘Caution To The Wind’. A poignant
and evocative road song detailing the vicissitudes of a lonely life on the road but a life that would not be changed should there be
the chance! Ashley’s impassioned vocal, redolent of the great Levon Helm is set against some terriic harp from Deborah. ‘Fracking Man’ is a topical piece of green social comment with some lovely percussion before a jaunty ‘Georgia Bound’. The stomping and harp of ‘Get On Back To You’ is followed by
some gorgeous Country slide on the classic ‘How Can A Poor Man Stand’ with effective backing vocals. ‘Jim Canans’ is a raucous romp, with harmony vocals, guitar and washboard, a good time song celebrating riotous living. A picking and swinging Country Blues ‘Old Lonesome Blues’ is great fun before the haunting harp of a simple Blues, ‘Need You By My Side’. The title track is typical of the quality on offer here, a simple Country Blues, lovingly
executed preceding a couple of lovely covers. The closing ‘Way Down Behind The Sun’ is another belter with decorative harp and fine guitar on the perils of overwork which is beautifully depicted. Nothing new here maybe but a fine set of country blues bookended by two superb examples of the genre that are worth the entrance fee alone. Be sure to catch this talented duo and take this CD home with you.

Bob Chaffey – Blues in Britain

Rowledge Village Hall 2011 – Blues in Britain Country blues in the quintessential English country – well Surrey to be exact! You couldn’t really say that the village hall in Rowledge resembled a juke joint, although there were certain similarities. The makeshift bar in the back room, doing a good trade in local beer (as well as wine), the main room with its array of tables and chairs and the support from the locals, all grabbing an opportunity to catch up with friends and enjoy a Saturday evening. Oh….and not forgetting the appearance on the compact stage of Rag Mama Rag, taking their interpretation of good time blues and rag music to the people as part of a busy UK tour, away from their home across the channel. The main room was packed, leaving standing room only near the bar by the time Deborah and Ashley Dow began their first set with the ever popular “I Can’t Be Satisfied”, followed by a rolling “Walking Blues” that got the toes tapping and generated good applause. The next forty five minutes or so took the audience on trip back in time, in the company of respected musicians such as Leadbelly, Big Bill Broonzy, Robert Johnson and Blind Boy Fuller, courtesy of Ashley’s magical National guitar and vocals, plus Deborah’s superb rhythm on washboard, percussion or her dexterity on the harmonica. “When I Was A Cowboy” and “Jitterbug Rag” kept up a nice pace, interspersed with a handful of slower numbers featuring Ashley’s Hawaiian guitar, before “Brownsville” and an atmospheric “Crossroad Blues” gave way to enthusiastic audience participation during “Minnie The Moocher” that generated a good thirst, judging by the queue at the bar during the break and added pressure on the village hall’s toilet facilities. The break in the live music also saw the tables and chairs nearest the stage being moved back a little, creating some space for a handful of dancers, keen to loose their inhibitions as soon as Rag Mama Rag returned with some up tempo boogie woogie and the Elmore James’ classic “Dust My Broom”. The band’s equally enjoyable second stint included another variety of styles, including country and Cajun influences, introducing the punters to the lyrical talents of former roving entertainers like Skip James and Scrapper Blackwell, plus homage to the rail system in the form of “Freight Train”. A link was drawn between between the current age of austerity and the Great Depression with “You Can’t Get The Stuff No More”, appropriately around the time the keg of beer in the bar ran dry. “Your Cheatin’ Heart” prompted another sing along, the dim lights preventing too many accusing glances being picked up by any deserving recipients, including an increased number on the makeshift dance floor by the stage, while the finale perhaps reminded one or two  present that they were only a day or so away from commuting to the City as the musicians promoted the attractions of “Sweet Home Chicago” in fine style. This was Saturday night entertainment in its most basic and attractive form and, if the queue for the band’s cd’s was anything to go by, hopefully not the last time this marvelous duo find their way to this neat village in the future. Check out rag-mama-rag.com for details of the band’s other appearances on these shores, to pack up your troubles for an evening!

– Darrell Parsons

SUTTON BLUES COLLECTIVE Station Pub, Sutton Coldfield

Rag Mama Rag  put on a superlative performance at The Sutton Blues Collective this Wednesday.  They were exactly the right sort of act for the ambience of this club.  A complex combination of traditional country blues. Both halves of the set were a seemingly endless stream of songs accompanied by Ashley’s fast and driving guitar playing backed by Deborah playing at different times on washboard, harmonica, spoons and an African drum, occasionally providing backup vocals.  There was even a couple of numbers played on the ukulele to provide light relief from the more intense sons.  Rag Mama Rag is definitely an act not to be missed.

– Clive Sheard 

Bluesnight at The Dorchester Arts Centre – It was with great pleasure that Rag Mama Rag were welcomed for their second visit to Bluesnights. The duo  set out to show us what they are about and it is top quality musicianship!  Their sets ranged from slower melodies to fast paced rocking blues, throwing in some superb finger picking for good measure ; talk about jumping in your seats.A wonderful evening, with each set packed full of numbers, amiably  presented by an unassuming yet multi-talented couple who did not leave anybody disappointed. There is absolutely no doubt about their calibre! A must see!.

Blues in Britain – Lewis A Harris

THE 5TH BEER R&B FESTIVAL – Beer, East Devon  Ashley’s multi-guitared prowess, great vocals and Debbie’s harp, vocals and amazing array of things to hit and scrape and tap produce wonderfully atmospheric renditions of old  songs of various styles.  Outstanding  to me, “Take Me Up To The Church” (I believe) was so raw and intimate, I saw people visibly moved.  There was lots of fun too and I noticed a very particular attention to sound settings for each song. If you get a chance do see them do

– Riley B James

The Chicago music Network .

One word that was on everyone’s lips after their set was “Brilliant!”  It is a long time since I saw such an entertaining act as RAG MAMA RAG, they really are worth catching. I would urge you to go and see them, you will not be disappointed. Owner of the club, Bowden commented “These really are a cut above the rest, they are welcome back any time”

– Trevor Knightsmith

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