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Rick Ruskin | Whatever Happened to Blind Matzoh Leftkowitz?

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Chet Atkins Rev. Gary Davis Robert Johnson

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United States - Washington

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Blues: Acoustic Blues Urban/R&B: R&B Pop Crossover Moods: Featuring Guitar
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Whatever Happened to Blind Matzoh Leftkowitz?

by Rick Ruskin

A consummate artist returns to his roots and presents with complete honesty and reverence, yet in his own unique style, a full CD of traditional and original blues.
Genre: Blues: Acoustic Blues
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Hesitation Blues
3:26 $0.99
2. Come On in My Kitchen
3:07 $0.99
3. Death Don't Have No Mercy
5:28 $0.99
4. Walkin' Blues
4:35 $0.99
5. Trouble in Mind
2:54 $0.99
6. March of the Blues Guitars
1:57 $0.99
7. Jfc Blues
3:31 $0.99
8. Born Under a Bad Sign
3:53 $0.99
9. Strut Yo Stuff
2:17 $0.99
10. Me and the Devil
3:01 $0.99
11. I Will Do My Last Singing in This Land
3:40 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Rick Ruskin is a native of Detroit, Michigan. It was there in 1962 that he started playing guitar and in just one year became a respected professional musician. In 1964, during an engagement as opening act for the Reverend Gary Davis at Detroit's legendary Retort Coffee House, that a fast and permanent friendship with the master blues, ragtime, and gospel guitarist began. Rev. Davis was so taken by the young Ruskin's skill and eagerness, that he invited Rick to spend that summer with him at his Long Island home. During this time, Rev. Davis began and continued to push Ruskin into the development of his own style. Few would argue with the results of the Reverend’s suggestion.

Currently residing in Seattle, Washington, Rick divides his professional time between composing, performing, teaching, and as owner of Lion Dog Music, which involves him in all phases of the recording process.

Rick Ruskin's achievements as a musician and composer are many and

Original Compositions and/or Arrangements Used By:

A&E Network


Warner Bros. Television

Mel Bay Publications
Hewlett Packard
Second Story Television
Armand Hammer Productions
TEAC Corporation of America
Fostex Electronics
James B. Lansing Sound


Lead Guitarist for Jackie De Shannon
Acoustic Guitarist for Olivia Newton-John
Rhythm Guitarist for Tanya Tucker
Jeremiah Johnson soundtrack
A Boy and His Dog soundtrack
Kid Blue soundtrack

Composed the film score for American Film Institute's,


Instructor at the Swannanoa Gathering - Asheville NC
Instructor at Augusta Heritage Festival's Blues Week
Instructor at the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop
Instructor and former director of Musical Arts Workshop -
Seattle WA
Guitar Workshop Coordinator for CA Traditional Music
Society's Summer Solstice Festival


Whatever Happened To Blind Matzoh Leftkowitz? (Lion Dog Music)
In The Beginning (Lion Dog Music)
Perfect Pitch (Lion Dog Music)
The Gospel According To/with Vivian Williams (Lion Dog Music)
Once Upon A Time, Lion Dog Music (Lion Dog Music)
Words Fail Me, Lion Dog Music (Lion Dog Music)
Turn the Page (Beachwood Records)
Against Tradition/ with Karen Leigh Williams (Soundboard Music)
Sounds Familiar, (with Lewis Ross) Revere Records
Songs, Hymns and Carols, (with Lewis Ross) Revere Records
On The Cheap/with Lewis Ross (Lion Dog Music)
John Fahey Visits Washington, D.C. (Takoma Records)
Six String Conspiracy (Takoma Records)
Christmas with John Fahey: VOL.II (Takoma Records)
Microphone Fever (Takoma Records)
Richard Ruskin (Takoma Records)


Words Fail Me – The Complete Transcriptions, Slice Of Life Publications
The Takoma Sessions, John August Music/Mel Bay
Fingerstyle Groove Guitar, Video Progressions
Acoustic Fingerstyle Guitar, Video Progressions
Fingerstyle Christmas, VOL. I, Video Progressions
Fingerstyle Christmas, VOL. II, Video Progressions

Acoustic Guitar Magazine
Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine
FRETS Magazine


The Occasional Cafe - WA
Coffee Gallery - CA
Boulevard Music - CA
The Fret House - CA
Temecula Art gallery - CA
McCabes - CA
Freight and Salvage - CA
The Ice House - CA
California Traditional Music Society - CA
U of M - MI
Wayne State University - MI
Chaps - MI
Elderly Instruments - MI
Portland Guitar Society - OR
The Rose Festival - OR
Oregon College of Education - OR
Western Washington University - WA
University of Puget Sound - WA
University of Minnesota - MN
Monroe Center Coffee House - WA
The Backstage - WA
The Crystal Star - WA
The Epicurean - WA
The Antique Sandwich - WA
Still Life Coffee House - WA
Bumbershoot - WA
Folk Life Festival - WA
Museum of History and Industry - WA

What Has Been Said About Rick Ruskin:

“I get an education every time I hear Rick Ruskin play.” (James Lee Stanley)

"... In these days of all the high-energy slaps and electronics effects,
it is most rewarding to find an inventive guitarist who can deliver the guitar
in the original steel and wood sound.....Amazing talent"

"...so brilliant at times that he seems to transcend normal
approaches to the guitar....Ruskin may be the smoothest
technical player around. Flashy, fast, inventive and
musical and that isn't easy." (GUITAR PLAYER)

"...a standout guitarist..." (BILLBOARD)

"...the detail and precision of Ruskin's playing are well
known among fingerpickers..." (GUITAR PLAYER)

"...He has impeccable technique and the good taste and sense
to know that merely showing off technical wizardry can be
deathly boring." (MILWAUKEE WEEKLY)

"...one of the best finger-style guitarists in the

"...Ruskin's touch is peerless, his playing is flawless..."

"...he is one of the most refined and expressive guitar
players I've heard...Ruskin has enjoyable stage presence..."

"...Ruskin creates some of the most beautifully toned guitar
solos ever heard..." (SAN DIEGO NEWS PRESS)

"...Ruskin is one of the finest people I've heard in a
long time. His vocals come across with ease and a
brilliance that brings to mind Cat Stevens...As a guitarist,
he is unbelievably great. The man has a style that makes
each song new and exciting to listen to..."

"...Though I have nothing against Leo Kottke, 'the greatest
folk guitarist on earth does seem a bit overstated. I
suggest you listen to Steve Goodman, RICHARD RUSKIN, Merle
Travis, Doc Watson, Chet Atkins, William Ackerman or Fred
Epping before you crown the King." (PEOPLE)



to write a review

Karl Dentino

Rick Ruskin at his best
If you play fingerstyle guitar you should know the name Rick Ruskin. If you don't him, this album might be a well-timed introduction. Rick's playing is at it's best here....a distinctive warm groove that is filled with smooth blend of inevitability and surprise. The album delivers all sides of Rick, signature instrumentals that will have you finger-snapping and traditional tunes that will have you toe-tapping. The vocal tracks that showcase Rick's ragtime blues and delta blues chops (Hesitation Blues, Death Don't Have No Mercy and Trouble In Mind) stand up well against anybody's approach to these classics. They are a performing guitarists treasure trove-- filled with many licks and tricks!

(Brian M. Owens – Editor/Publisher Metronome Magazine)

Ruskin in top form highlighting a player in the prime of his career.
“Fingerstyle guitarist Rick Ruskin is a guitar player of the highest order. On his latest album, the veteran six stringer interprets the blues stylings of Rev. Gary Davis, Robert Johnson and Booker T. Jones as well as exploring the parameters of the genre, penning four of his own songs. It is those originals where Ruskin expands fingerstyle blues and truly shines. “March of the Blues Guitars,” “JFC Blues,” and “Strut Yo Stuff” capture Ruskin in top form highlighting a player in the prime of his career. Good stuff!”

(Brian M. Owens – Editor/Publisher Metronome Magazine)

Rick Ruskin

Clarification from the Artist
Only one tune contains any explicit lyrics. Of course I gave it 5 stars. I recorded it!

Tom Ditkoff

A unique and creative Blues album
Well, Rick Ruskin has really done it this time. Here’s a guy who has been writing his own stuff and interpreting other’s material for a lot of years now. I was first attracted to his Rev. Gary Davis material and his ability to play it (and teach it) just like the Reverend or to clean it up and make it even more complex. But in “Blind Matzoh Lefkowitz”, Rick has stepped away from the literal interpretations of Davis and Robert Johnson songs and put a more basic, simple, yet unique interpretation to some of this old material. For example, his “Walkin’ Blues”, a Robert Johnson song, in Ruskin’s hands, has become an entirely new song with a bass line that is absolutely infectious and a vocal that is at once direct and subtle - and not reminiscent of anyone I have heard sing this song.

Consider “Hesitation Blues” - another blues standard that I think we all learned early on - Ruskin manages to incorporate all the basics and yet embellishments as well - but keeps it simple - just the way I need it to learn! You see, most of us imitate, but Ruskin creates.

Every song on this album is beautiful in its simple complexity - “Me and the Devil” moves beyond Johnson, past Rev. Davis and into a whole new territory. Nothing is as it was - and that is true creativity.

I could go on about each song, but I think you should judge for yourself. This album is a real treat for lover’s of blues. Don’t miss it!

Skip Griparis

This should be called “Why doesn’t everybody know Rick Ruskin?”
The funny title belies the excellence of this CD. I have followed Rick’s career since the 1970’s, and he has created album after album of exemplary music, featuring not only his first-rate vocals and writing, but his absolutely world-class guitar picking. In a music scene dominated by hacks with electronic gimmicks, he gets more out of one acoustic guitar than any three guys together. If he had a dollar for every lick I copped from him, he could buy the evil Koch brothers) This CD is yet another perfectly recorded effort with blues songs from the likes of Rev. Gary Davis and Robert Johnson, along with some fine originals by Rick. A few tunes are presented in a groovy quartet setting, but Rick is the absolute master at vocal with solo acoustic guitar. Listen to this CD, and with my apologies to Blind Matzoh, you’ll be asking, “Why doesn’t everybody know Rick Ruskin?”

mc1 (Acousticguitarforum.com)

Good Stuff
i been listening to this cd and it's really a very good cd. it's a mix of primarily stripped down, acoustic guitar + vocals traditional blues, along with some tunes featuring a band, including electric guitar and slide. it's a nice bit of variety, with a couple of instrumentals thrown in as well.

most of the songs are covers (e.g. hesitation blues", "come on in my kitchen", death don't have no mercy", etc). while the guitar playing and vibe is rooted in the original feel, it's definitely been updated and has it's own thing going on.

the acoustic guitar playing is really tasty, full of interesting riffs, strong rhythms, and syncopated fills. very captivating playing. the guitars all sound great, and the recording and mix are spot on. the electric guitar playing is savory as well, and never overdone.

i would highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys acoustic blues. good stuff.

Kristi Nebel

You can’t go wrong with the venture of buying this album.
The CD begins with a barebones sound that drew me like a magnet to this man’s musical brilliance thirty years ago at the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop. Rick Ruskin has a core following he has nursed since his early days under the Takoma label owned by John Fahey. I don’t mind confessing to be among those not insubstantial numbers of long-time, international fans. He plays the intricate syncopated fingerpicking style of Delta blues that seems to transcend what ten fingers could logically accomplish with such ease and impeccable precision. And he sings on top of that with a sweet vibrato-laced tenor pulsing passion into the familiar lyrics of favorites of Robert Johnson and Reverend Gary Davis. We all long to linger on the familiar with a twist of the new in traditional music and Ruskin delivers here, with Hesitation Blues, Come On In My Kitchen, and Death Don’t Have No Mercy. The power of his muscle in the fluid attack on the strings is matched with his vocals. Ruskin has lost none of his magic in the years I’ve known him. His project is paired with a playful website detailing the biography of “Blind Matzoh Leftkowitz” at http://www.liondogmusic.com/BMLbio.htm. In Walkin’ Blues he wanders into the territory of leads on electric slide, over acoustic guitar. The arrangement offered with Trouble in Mind likewise follows with the same model. As if to expand his sound, the next song features lead guitar layered on fingerpicked electric guitars on an original instrumental which is meticulously syncopated, and aptly named March of the Blues Guitars. The seventh song, an original called JFC Blues, is sung as a mock gospel plea to Jesus asking why there seems to be no reward in foregoing sin for the virtues of a pure life. Born Under a Bad Sign is also produced with drums, bass, backup vocals sung by the group "Gang Sang", and appropriate electric leads that punctuate the hard lyrics like the punch of a needle in the flesh. Ruskin has no small element of fun in playing electric as well as acoustic leads on this album, each with distinctive attacks that are uniquely his own. He adds another fine original instrumental called Strut Yo Stuff. The final and eleventh song returns to the style begun on this project, with the simplicity of acoustic guitar and vocal. The song seems to poignantly end the album with its theme as expressed in its title, I Will Do My Last Singing In This Land, by Reverend Gary Davis. Rick Ruskin is a Seattle-based musician who has earned his stripes on the road backing such names as Olivia Newton-John and has played session tracks for many other familiar names in Los Angeles. He’s an established local gem and doesn’t lack for fans. If you’re one of them you won’t be disappointed with this album. If you’re not yet, you can’t go wrong with the venture of buying this album. He will be taking his one-man show on the road again playing a tour of concert venues in California in March. I can never get enough of this man’s fingers on the strings of a guitar and this is no disappointment to anyone with a lifetime of love for the best of the world’s blues fingerpickers such as Rick Ruskin.