Blues singer Ann Rabson's new album is a family affair, literally. On it, she performs 13 blues standards and originals with her sister, brother, daughter, nephew and brother-in-law.
Music has always had a way of bringing people together. For Ann Rabson, it brought together her immediate family, and inspired the title of her latest release, In A Family Way. Ann says having family in the studio was no different than being with them at home.
"When we had a family reunion or a family dinner at Thanksgiving or whatever; I mean a lot of people get kind of snippy [unpleasant] after a few hours of being with their family. But all we would do is pick up instruments and start jamming. And that's one of the things that inspired this album was trying to share that. You can't bicker with people while you're playing music."
Ann Rabson has been playing music her whole life. She modeled her style after blues fiddler and guitarist "Big Bill" Broonzy and other blues legends. Ann added piano to her repertoire, and became an immediate sensation, alternating between honky-tonk piano and Delta-style finger picking.
She also writes clever lyrics, with each song sharing insight into her personal life. She says "I Want To Hop On Your Harley" is dedicated to her most devoted fans, bikers (motorcyclists). On the back of her CD, Ann is shown standing next to a Harley Davidson motorcycle.
"My manager Bonnie Tallman took that picture," she says.
Does she ride?
"Not anymore. I did in my misspent youth," she says.
Why a song about motorcycle riding on the CD?
"Motorcyclists have been a rather constant audience for the blues in this country, even when people weren't so interested in the blues," she says. "There have been decades when the interest kind of fell off a little bit. But those bikers have always been there, so I decided to write a song in their honor."
Ann is one of today's most distinctive barrelhouse piano players, an early blues style that needed no accompaniment.
"Barrelhouse to me is a piano style. It's a style of piano where you use both hands and where there are no other instruments," she said. "And you don't need any other instruments because you're playing the piano. Boogie-woogie can fall into that category. The piano was the only instrument, and people wanted to dance. So you had to have that bass going and the rhythm going and the melody and everything."
Ann Rabson continues to perform with her acoustic blues trio Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women. Saffire was the first all-acoustic group signed to Alligator Records. In the meantime, Ann is balancing her solo career with family time, or in some cases doing both.