Libby Rae Watson & Bert Deivert
Hard Danger Studio
Word is surely getting around in this ever smaller world of ours. In the past few months, this writer has been contacted by artists and/or producers in Russia, Cuba, and Sweden. We have covered some of the jazz artists on the Russian label, Rainy Days, informed you of a terrific Cuban orchestra and now move to Sweden by way of the U.S. She Shimmy is an acoustic blues set from two deft pickers, Bert Deivert and Libby Rae Watson. Deivert is from the Boston, Mass, area but has lived in Sweden for almost forty years. He moved there after playing on the streets of the country with Peter Case back in 1974. Watson is a native Mississippian whose mentor was the colorful leader of The Mississippi Sheiks, Sam Chatmon.
Their common bond of inspiration, and hence the resulting sound owes to that 1920s/30s seminal string band, The Mississippi Sheiks, as Deivert attributes much of his blues mandolin style to the Sheiks’ Charlie McCoy. Deivert and Watson met in the South years ago, after initially meeting on the internet, but first played together in 2019 at Sweden’s Amal Blues Festival. On the album they mix it up, trading vocals, and solos. Deivert principally plays the mandolin but also guitar and slide guitar. They are joined at times by the masterful blues harpist, Charlie Musselwhite. Eric Bibb also joins in, giving the album an authentic country blues vibe. They bring some originals, tunes written by Mason Arnold, and classics written by Sam Chatmon, Little Hat Jones, and Jimmy Rogers.
Dievert and Watson find the right balance between finesse and fire. It comes off casually but carefully nuanced as well, the mark of truly seasoned performers to whom the music comes as naturally as breathing. Tracks range from “I Want You To Know” and ‘That’s All Right” to “Whiskey Blues.” Dievert’s mandolin playing surely stands out as it’s readily apparent why he is regarded as one of the world’s best blues mandolinists. Watson’s vocal phrasing is interesting too, the way she emphasizes certain lyrics and phrases.
The duo was booked for this year’s New Orleans Blues & Jazz Festival, but we’ll have to wait to hear them performing together live. In the meantime, this acoustic set deserves your attention with its combination of vocals (mostly Libby Rae’s) and Dievert’s excellent touch with both the mandolin and slide. It’s as good as the idiom gets.
- Jim Hynes