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Bobby Rush: Porcupine Meat

James Nadal By

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They don't call Bobby Rush the King of the Chitlin' Circuit for nothing. With an extraordinary discography, and legendary status as an enthusiastic live performer, Rush was recognized in 2015 with a fifty year, retrospective box set, titled "Chicken Heads," by Omnivore Recordings. Returning to his home state of Louisiana, and recorded in New Orleans, the octogenarian singer stays true to his southern funky blues style on Porcupine Meat, his debut release for Rounder Records.

Rush is also acknowledged as a prolific songwriter, and he came prepared with a dozen gems drawn from all those years in the business, and on the road. Producer Scott Billington procured the appropriate group of accompanying musicians for these sessions, highlighted by a dynamic horn section. Rush also plays harmonica on most of the songs, adding an acoustic down home element to this production.

Opening with the funky "I Don't Want Nobody Hanging Around," Rush lays out the direction this is going to go, with his lyrics leaving no room for doubt as to what he means. The title track brings down the heat to a soul-blues simmer, in a song that is perfectly suited for the jukebox in a roadhouse. It's all the way into the personal blues on "Got Me Accused," Rush displaying a more serious side of a man done wrong, with no way out. Double-entendre is one of Rush's trademarks in songwriting, "Snake In The Grass," Nighttime Gardener," and "Catfish Stew," being perfect examples of this ageless trick from tin pan alley.

The lovers quarrel has always provided a goldmine of material, and Rush delves deep into these situations on "Me Myself And I," "It's Your Move," and "Standing On Shaky Ground." Though some of these might be humorous and others outright ribald, there is no questioning his ability to sing it with authentic feeling as one who has been there and back. The final number, "I'm So Tired," is performed with a stripped down rhythm section, featuring stellar guitar work by Vasti Jackson, who also doubled as musical director for this project.

Bobby Rush is a prime specimen of a performer who has been pursuing his craft for over half a century, and is keeping the blues alive. He travels in a parallel musical universe, on the back roads of the chitlin' circuit, doing his thing, gig after gig, night after night, getting it done. His voice is in optimum condition and his devotion to this recording is evident throughout. Having had moderated success as a record producer for his own label Deep Rush, this release for Rounder affords him exposure to a wider audience, as the word gets out that Bobby Rush is back, though he has always been around.

Track Listing: I Don’t Want Nobody Hanging Around; Porcupine Meat; Got Me Accused; Snake In The Grass; Funk O’ De Funk; Me, Myself And I; Catfish Stew; It’s Your Move; Nighttime Gardener; I Think Your Dress Is Too Short; Standing On Shaky Ground; I’m Tired.

Personnel: Bobby Rush: vocals, harmonica; Vasti Jackson: guitar; Shane Theriot: guitar; David Torkanowsky: Hammond B3 organ, piano, Hohner clavinet, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer; Kirk Joseph: sousaphone; Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander: drums; Barney Floyd: trumpet; Jeff Albert: trombone; Jeff Watkins: tenor sax; Charles Elam III: backing vocals; Cornell Williams: backing vocals; Johnette Downing: backing vocals; Joe Bonamassa: guitar (6); Khari Lee Allen: alto saxophone; Dave Alvin: guitar (8); Roger Lewis: baritone sax; Keb Mo: guitar (9); Scott Billington: percussion (11).

Title: Porcupine Meat | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Rounder Records

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