CD Review: Bobby Rush - Porcupine Meat

60 years into his career, Bobby Rush is showing no signs of slowing down.
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By the time most men reach the age of 82, they are happy to be retired and want a quiet, relaxing life. Bobby Rush is not most men. The Blues Hall of Famer plays more than 200 shows a year and has recorded approximately 300 songs in his long, storied career. He received his first gold record in 1971 for "Chicken Heads" and has played alongside many of the greats of the genre including Howlin' Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Freddie King and Little Walter, among others.

Like many other artists, Rush had taken to self-releasing a lot of his more recent work, including his critically acclaimed album, Folk Funk. That works for a lot of smaller artists, but Rush came to realize that he needed the support of a larger record label. Enter Rounder Records, who helped Rush realize his latest gem, Porcupine Meat, an album that has since been nominated for a Grammy Award.

Produced by Scott Billington (Himself a two-time Grammy winner), Porcupine Meat was recorded in New Orleans, LA, marking the first time Rush had recorded in his home state. The tracks were cut live, with a real band and no synthesizers and Rush gives inspired performances throughout. The album also features several guests, including Vasti Jackson, Joe Bonamassa, Dave Alvin and Keb' Mo'.

The album leads off with the infectious funk-blues of "I Don't Want Nobody Hanging Around." Crisp guitars and Stax-inspired horns mix with Rush's strong vocals and tasteful harmonica licks on this killer opener. The laid-back soul of the title track follows. Rush laments about a woman who doesn't treat him well, but doesn't want anyone else to have him when he sings in the chorus, "too fat to eat, too lean to throw away." It's a dash of humor thrown at a frustrating situation over a soulful backdrop.

Bonamassa guests on "Me, Myself And I", his biting leads offering a nice contrast over the track's mellow blues backdrop. Rush gives a confident vocal on this excellent meeting between bluesmen from different generations. "Funk O' De Funk" lives up to its name, expertly blending the blues and funk worlds with Rush's swaggering vocals commanding the proceedings.

Rush's unaccompanied harmonica opens the album closer "I'm Tired (Tangle Eye Mix)." Rush gives a gritty vocal over this heavy blues song that also showcases some potent slide guitar. The song builds in intensity, gradually adding more instruments. This is the blues at its most vital.

Rush's Grammy nomination is well deserved. Some 60 years on, he is still releasing important, relevant blues music and has lost none of his vitality to age. Porcupine Meat is well worth a listen to hear the blues done right.