Rounder Records – 2016
12 tracks; 57 minutes
Everyone in the blues community knows Bobby Rush, recipient of a Blues Blast Awards for Lifetime Achievement in 2014 and Historical album of the year in 2016. After several albums released on his own Deep Rush label Bobby has teamed up with Rounder for this release and the collaboration with veteran producer Scott Billington at the controls is excellent. Bobby wrote all the material with a helping hand from Scott and his wife Johnette Downing on three songs and the album was recorded in New Orleans with a crack team of Louisiana musicians: Jeffrey ‘Jellybean’ Alexander, Shane Theriot, Cornell Williams, Kirk Joseph, Barney Floyd, Jeff Albert, Khari Allen Lee, Jeff Watkins, Roger Lewis, Charles “Chucky C” Elam, III and David Torkanowsky, with Bobby’s long-time collaborator Vasti Jackson helping on arrangements and adding guitar. Guests include Joe Bonamassa, Dave Alvin and Keb Mo’ who contribute guitar to one track each. Throughout the album Bobby sings and plays harp like a man half his age and this may just be his strongest album yet, at age 82.
Several of these songs take tried and tested blues themes and recycle them effectively: opener “I Don’t Want Nobody Hanging Around” finds Bobby worrying about who might be with his woman while he is out; suspicions include the mailman, milkman – just about anyone in fact! The funky tune is embellished with horns and Bobby delivers a fine harp solo mid-tune. The slow blues “Got Me Accused” mixes parts of “Third Degree” and “Bad Avenue” and uses some of the same lyrical themes as well as comment on racial injustices, Bobby’s vocal very strong alongside some lovely guitar work.
The title track “Porcupine Meat” delivers a great line: “Porcupine meat – too fat to eat, too lean to throw away” which Bobby explains is his interpretation of his lady rejecting him but not wanting him to look elsewhere. “Funk O’ De Funk” gives us a an autobiographical take on Bobby’s life and music that matches the title perfectly, the horns used to underline the lyrics which here take from “Mannish Boy” mixed with “Everything I Do Gotta Be Funky”.
“Snake In The Grass” and “Catfish Stew” are co-writes with the Billingtons, the former a slinky funk tune that offers a cautionary warning, the latter an uptempo dance tune with the horns back in force with some more of Bobby’s well-known double entendres. The three guest guitarists all make good contributions to their tracks: Joe Bonamassa turns in an exceptional solo on the slow-burning “Me, Myself And I”; Dave Alvin features on a jazz-inflected “It’s Your Move”, his angular solo sitting above the twinkling piano and Keb Mo’ adds slide to the uptempo stomper “Nighttime Gardener”, another of Bobby’s boastful and risqué songs.
The horns are back again on “I Think Your Dress Is Too Short” in which the lady in question causes disruption wherever she goes, in the street, on the front row at Sunday church, etc! “Standing On Shaky Ground” is a familiar title but a different song, this one having something of a Memphis feel with the horns giving a real boost to the chorus. Final track “I’m Tired” is more of a front-porch piece. Bobby double-tracked on two harps over Vasti’s resonator slide work, and closes the album in a style different to most of this album but still unmistakably Bobby Rush.
There seems to be no stopping Bobby Rush and, on this form, why would any of us want to!