Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast

Annie Raines interview

April 05, 2023 Neil Warren Season 1 Episode 83
Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast
Annie Raines interview
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Annie Raines joins me on episode 83.

Annie is an early pioneer as a female blues harmonica player. Hailing from the Boston area of the US, she drew on the rich source of harmonica inspiration from nearby Cambridge, regularly attending a jam there in her youth, and meeting many great players and joining the Cambridge Harmonica Orchestra. 

Annie then teamed-up with her long time musical partner, Paul Rishell, after also meeting him around the Boston area. They have now been performing and recording together for over 30 years, releasing seven albums, and winning a WC Handy award for one of them. Annie has also guested on albums with several other artists, including Pinetop Perkins.

Annie teaches harmonica and has released an instructional video, and gives workshops at various harmonica gatherings.


Annie and Paul's website:

John Gindick’s website:

Cambridge Harmonica Orchestra:

George Mayweather: What I'd Say:

Blues Harmonica Blueprint instruction:

Tomlin Harmonica School:


Annie singing You’ve Been A Good Old Wagon:

Charles Leighton playing In A Sentimental Mood:

Canned Heat Blues: from Live In Woodstock DVD:

Harmonica UK Virtual Festival 2020:

Augusta Blues / Swing week 2013:

Duet with John Sebastien:

Podcast website:

If you want to make a voluntary donation to help support the running costs of the podcast then please use this link (or visit the podcast website link above):

Spotify Playlist:
Also check out the Spotify Playlist, which contains most of the songs discussed in the podcast:

Podcast sponsors:
This podcast is sponsored by SEYDEL harmonicas - visit the oldest harmonica factory in the world at www.seydel1847.com  or on Facebook or Instagram at SEYDEL HARMONICAS

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Annie is from the Boston area of the US
What first drew Annie into music
Started playing some piano when seven years old, but was a bad student
Picked up music again in high school, playing a keyboard synthesiser
Did some singing in the synagogue, but didn’t know what she was singing in Hebrew
Started playing harmonica age 17, after looking for a book on how to juggle
Learnt to play harmonica from a John Gindick instructional book
Juggling and playing harmonica, and Juzzie Smith
Studied the John Gindick book in some detail
Studied the John Gindick book in some detail
Was given a tape of blues players from a younger student at school and Annie felt an affinity to the music of Muddy Waters
Started attending a blues jam in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Annie got up to take part in her first blues jam about three months after first going to the club
Joined the Cambridge Harmonica Orchestra
Learnt how to breathe through the harmonica in the orchestra
Some of the other well known members of the Cambridge Harmonica Orchestra
Annie met George Mayweather, who became a mentor for Annie
Annie took lessons from five different people from the Cambridge area, including Jerry Portnoy
First harmonica was a Pocket Pal which came with John Gindick book
Still tinkered on the piano but couldn’t improvise on that
Later developed singing and learnt to play mandolin
Dropped out of college to focus on music
Started teaching harmonica age 19 and received ten tapes of the harmonica greats
Slim Harpo was also an inspiration
How parents reacted to Annie dropping out of college to pursue music
Income from music wasn’t great in the early days
Had a tweed amp that had to carry on the bus
Paying gigs started a few years later playing with Shirley Lewis, and Annie could quit the day job
Practise regime followed
Did some work tuning harmonicas for Magic Dick’s harmonica venture
Teamed-up with Paul Rishell for the first time in 1992
Paul Rishell played harmonica friendly songs
Thought country blues was easy to play before experiencing it with Paul Rishell
Got gigs with Paul Rishell and started touring with him and playing a regular gig
First album recorded with Paul Rishell was I Want You To Know in 1996
Moving To The Country album was released in 2000, winning a WC Handy Award for Best Acoustic Blues album
Annie played three songs on Paul Rishell’s Swear To Tell The Truth album, before their partnership was established
Paul’s wife became seriously ill but still encouraged them to get out playing as they were starting to make a name for themselves
Goin’ Home album from 2004 and Annie’s singing
Harmonica is such a good instrument for giving a voice to a voiceless person
Chromatic harmonica
Heard Charles Leighton at the SPAH convention, who is a great chromatic player
A Night In Woodstock album with Paul Rishell also released as a DVD
A Night In Woodstock was released as album sales were dropping, so Annie and Paul set-up their own record company
Annie and Paul appear in a documentary called ‘Chasin’ Gus’ Ghost’
Guesting on other musicians albums, including Pinetop Perkins
Also recorded with John Sebastien
Played with Susan Tedeschi, with whom Annie was the first woman to play on the House of Blues stage in Boston
Being a female blues harmonica player
Released Blues Harmonica Blueprint instructional material
Has given harmonica workshops in various locations and lots of teaching of harmonica
10 minute question
Harmonica of choice is the traditional Hohner Marine Band
Hohner Super 64 is chromatic of choice
Created lot of different tunings when working on Magic Dick company harps, but generally doesn’t perform with different tunings
Overblows: doesn’t use them on a gig
Doesn’t do much maintenance work on own harmonicas
Is a Hohner endorsee
Embouchre: 70% tongue blocks, 30% pucker
Uses a small Vibro Champ amp mostly now as playing with Paul Rishell in a duo most of the time
Fender Deluxe Reverb is choice when need a large amp
Mic-up small amp when needed
Acoustic microphones: typically SM58 or a beta SM57
Amped microphones: Astatic 200 crystal mic
Effects: Boss RV3 (reverb pedal with delay), and a tape Echoplex
Future plans