Mandolinist/guitarist Yank Rachell is a genuine blues giant. His youth was spent playing alongside such notables as Hambone Willie Newbern, Sleepy John Estes, and Big Joe Williams; later he added his sensuous tubular mandolin accompaniment to some of the most important recordings of harmonica master John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson. Rachell’s style combines the eccentric timing and harmonic distinctiveness of the Delta traditionalist with an aggressively well-crafted musicianship that sets him apart from many of his contemporaries whose music, though monumental in its impact, was often crude and even amateurish by today’s standards. Although he’s currently fronting an electric band that occasionally intrudes on the subtle intricacies of of his style, at 79, he remains one of our most important living links to the heart of the blues tradition, and his increasingly rare appearances outside his home city of Indianapolis are not to be missed. Tonight and Saturday, Rosa’s, 3420 W. Armitage; 342-0452.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Fraher.