Rawer Than Raw
Deep Rush Records/Thirty Tigers
Emmit Ellis Jr. a.k.a. Bobby Rush was born in Homer, La. in 1933. As a youngster, in the late 1940’s, he befriended and played with Elmore James. He formed his first band before relocating to Chicago where he worked with Freddie King, Luther Allison and Jimmy Reed.
Rush made his recording debut by releasing the single “Someday” on the Jerry-O label in 1964. In 1971 his song “Chicken Heads” sold over 500,000 copies and became his first Gold certified record. Rush released his first album “Rush Hour” in 1979. This is Rush’s 27th studio recording and 76th career release. Rush is a 2006 Blues Hall of Fame inductee with 51 Blues Music Award nominations winning thirteen times. He is the 2015 “B.B. King Entertainer of the Year”. Rush also has multiple Grammy Award nominations; winning his first Grammy for 2017’s “Porcupine Meat”, and receiving his fifth nod for last year’s “Sitting On Top of the Blues”.
Rush’s music is a combination of blues, soul and funk. He is famous for his humorous Southern chitlin’ circuit shows often telling stories of his romantic adventures. Rush relocated to Mississippi in the 1980’s and is an inductee into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame. He states “although I was born in Louisiana, I’m proud to call Mississippi home…I’m saluting Mississippi guys because they, to me, stayed truest to their roots. If you want to get the real deal of the blues, get it from the bluesmen who are from Mississippi”. “Rawer Than Raw” is a sequel to Rush’s 2007 acoustic album “Raw”, and he recorded alone; just his voice, guitar, harmonica, and feet. Rush has included five originals, and six selected covers from some of his Mississippi influences.
On the opener “Down in Mississippi” Rush sings “sure had a wonderful time…down in Mississippi, where the green grass grows all the time”; his guitar, harmonica and vocal an acoustic delight. “Let Me In Your House” features Rush keeping time with his foot and the lyric “if I can’t see you when I want to, just let me see you when I can”. “Sometimes I Wonder”, goes “why do you treat me like you do”. My favorite however has to be the hilarious “Garbage Man”, “have you ever been mistreated by someone you sure have loved…of all the men she could have left me for, she left me for the garbage man…whenever I fill garbage cans, I think about her and the garbage man”.
The covers include Bentonia, Mississippi’s Skip James’ “Hard Times” a.k.a. “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues”; first recorded in 1931, the lyric still rings true “times are harder now than they’ve ever been before”. Rush who met Howlin’ Wolf in 1951, introduced the iconic bluesman from White Station to the gal who would become Wolf’s second wife; Rush inimitably covers Wolf’s classic “Smokestack Lighting”. Willie Dixon, from Vicksburg, Ms. wrote “Shake It For Me” recorded by Wolf in 1962; and another fine performance from Rush. My favorite of the covers is from Sonny Boy Williamson II, born on the Sara Jones Plantation in Glendora, Ms. he recorded “Don’t Start Me Talkin’” in 1955. From Rolling Fork, Ms. Muddy Waters recorded “Honey Bee, Sail On” in 1969 on Chess Records. Although credited to the Hazelhurst, Ms. born Robert Johnson “Dust My Broom” is also included as a tribute to Elmore James, the man who it’s been said, taught it to Johnson, and who finally recorded it in 1951. Rush should know, at the age of 86, he is a historian of Mississippi blues.
This welcome addition to Rush’s catalog showcases him in a rare stripped-down acoustic setting and immediately makes this a collector’s item. Bobby Rush is a national treasure.