THE Bobby Rush: Legendary soul-blues singer is on tour and you must go

Bobby Rush at the Mint LA. Photos by Pat Rainer with Omnivore Entertainment (c) 2016

Photos by Pat Rainer with Omnivore Entertainment (c) 2016

Last night at the best spot in Los Angeles for roots music lovers, The Mint LA, I had the pleasure of seeing THE Bobby Rush for the second time. The first time I saw the legendary blues-soul singer from Homer, Louisiana at SXSW in Austin two years ago, I was impressed that well into his 80s he was doing a solo set of acoustic blues, which took me back to a time and place I have never been, but imagined I might have via my distant ancestors.

Last night, I saw Mr. Rush jumping and dancing on stage with a full electric band (including the sax player touring with The Rolling Stones, THE Stones). He was so full of energy and zest, that at half his age, I was a little embarrassed that I almost didn’t come out because I was tired! He brought the entire sold-out crowd to their feet, and unexpectedly, I rediscovered that I too could find that passion I had seemed to lost for live music in the past year. Next thing I know I was hootin’ and hollerin’ and dancing around to the pure, unadulterated (and I mean unadulterated) blues.

Straight from the chitlin’ circuit, he brought a bit of southern blues-soul history to some lucky blues fans in LA. The man who knew Willie Dixon, played with Etta James, Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, and Howling Wolf, among others, is unstoppable. He just released an epic box-set, Chicken Heads: A 50-Year History Of Bobby Rush, received two back-to-back Grammy nominations for albums released in 2014, Down in Louisiana
and 2015, Decisions, and is set to record ANOTHER brand new album, with equally legendary roots-producer, Scott Billington.

Bobby Rush is touring the U.S. (Tucson on Jan 28th, Austin on Jan 30th, then onto Nashville, Mississippi, Illinois, St. Louis, Texas, and Ohio all in February and March). Please go see him if you are in those areas. Considering he is one of the last of his generation, a stellar musician, with a stellar band, you will get more than your return in time and money to see a living American treasure in person.

Bobby Rush at the Mint LA. Photos by Pat Rainer with Omnivore Entertainment (c) 2016

Photos by Pat Rainer with Omnivore Entertainment (c) 2016

King of Chitlin’ Circuit Bobby Rush still groovin’ into his 80s: SXSW 2014

One of the highlights of my time at SXSW 2014 was seeing Mr. Bobby Rush (who was nominated this past year for a 2014 GRAMMY Award in Best Blues Album for “Down In Louisiana”). There is a bit of discrepancy as to his age. He told the audience he was 81, however Wikipedia says 73. According to The Encyclopedia of Arkansas Music (where he lived for a while), “Bobby Rush, known as the ‘King of the Chitlin’ Circut’…was born Emmett Ellis Jr…in 1935, however the 1940 census lists him as three years old.” It’s a mystery. But what is clear is how incredible a performer, guitar player, blues vocalist and harp player this man is. He has been on over 200 records and played with the likes of Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Bobby “Blue” Bland, BB King, and Johnnie Taylor.

Here Bobby Rush is on harmonica and vocals for a soulful cover of The Beatles “Come Together”
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Bobby “Blue” Bland: into the blues pantheon

bobby-blue-bland

The first time I heard the song “I Pity The Fool”, I stopped dead in my tracks and was completely drawn in by the growling vocals of Bobby “Blue” Bland. I immediately bought a 2-disc anthology to introduce myself to the man. Born in Tennessee, “Blue” Bland sang iconic songs “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City”, “Lead Me On”, “Turn Your Love Light On”, and “Farther On Up The Road.” He started out singing gospel and then fell in love with the blues he heard in Memphis and began blending those styles. Later he sang what would be considered R&B of the 70s and 80s. It’s all soul music really, and he was one of the best, along with his contemporaries Johnnie Taylor, Bobby Rush, BB King, etc. (By the way, Bobby Rush and BB King are still touring around, so get to see them. I’ve seen BB several times, but never Bobby Rush, but this festival looks off the chain and I may have to endure the sweltering August Mississippi to go: http://www.jacksonrhythmandbluesfestival.com.) “Blue” Bland sadly passed away June 23 at the age of 83. He left a legacy that generations will enjoy for the years to come.

Here is one of the most well-known songs “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City,” which Jay-Z and Kanye West sampled.

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