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A well-seasoned debut

By Moses Rascoe

Flying Fish Records: 1987

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This review first appeared in the March/April 1989 issue of Living Blues magazine.

Moses Rascoe is a young 70-year-old retired truck driver (he has passed since this was written) from North Carolina who started playing music professionally a couple of years back. This debut release is further evidence of his "discovery"as a bluesman after several highly acclaimed appearances at East Coast blues and folk festivals.

While driving his rig back and forth across the country for 30-odd years, Rascoe always packed his guitar along for the ride to entertain himself at day's end. When it came time to give up the road, he returned to his first love.

"Blues" is as likely to appeal to folk purists as it is blues fans. Rascoe's traditional acoustic rural blues illustrates how closely related black and white American folk music traditions are.

All of the selections on "Blues," which was recorded at a live performance in Pennsylvania in 1987, are traditional save two Jimmy Reed numbers – "Bright Lights, Big City" and "Big Boss Man." The performance is likewise traditional, with Rascoe backed by harpist Ken Werner or performing with just his acoustic guitar. Werner's harmonica playing is of the highest quality, as he stays out of Rascoe's way in the true sense of an accompanist.

"Bright Lights, Big City" opens the album and serves as a strong, accurate first impression of Rascoe. His singing is an odd combination of imperfection and purity: he displays a lisp on the lyrics, but has an incredibly strong, clear tone to his voice.

Rascoe's guitar play is tastefully imaginative, as he lays down the rhythm every few measures with well-chosen chords before returning to finger-picking his way through the lead.

The folk standard "John Henry" comes out of the museum for a breath of fresh air in Rascoe's hands. His clear, soaring vocals and simple, clean guitar leads lend themselves well to this piece of American lore.

The rest of the traditional songs on the album receive the same respectful yet inspired treatment from Rascoe. Highlights include "Scooba Doo," "Frankie and Johnny," "Let Me Play With Your Yo-Yo" and "Crawdad."