Bobby Rush says the main dish that’s the focus of his latest release, Porcupine Meat, is “too fat to eat, too lean to throw away.” But the 82-year-old Rush is still tough and stringy, serving up a down home menu on his Rounder debut that’s fiery and flavorful.
Recorded in New Orleans, the Louisiana native cooks up a steamy gumbo of swamp fonk and gritty blues. Rush has had a food thang going on ever since he hit it big with ’71’s “Chicken Heads,” given a boost when it was performed in the movie Blacksnake Moan in ’07 by Buddy Guy, who still performs it live. Rush keeps that swampy feel on “Catfish Stew,” but this is more of a party at the landing than a bayou excursion,firm ground underneath his feet to stomp on and a horn section to lean back against and blow some steamy harp across.
The arrangements are as much of a star on this effort as Rush is, wrapping around his gritty vocals like the bread encasing the innards of a Louisiana po-boy sammitch. “Standing On Shaky Ground” is not the gritty Delbert stomper, but a more laid-back,slinky glide that still has plenty of horny punch thanks to trumpeter Barney Floyd, trombonist Jeff Albert, Khari Allen Lee on alto sax, Jeff Watkins on tenor, and Roger Lewis on baritone.
“Nightime Gardner” is standard Rush double entendre, but this one rises to a higher level thanks to Keb Mo’s palate cleansing course of smooth slide guitar, backed by a stellar wire choir composed of guitarists Vasti Johnson and Shane Theriot.
Joe Bonamassa adds some wriggly wails on “Me Myself and I,” while David Torkanowsky’s B-3 burbles soulfully behind him.
Dave Alvin gets in some stinging soul licks on “It’s Your Move” while Rush plays chess with his woman, telling her “it’s your move” while always staying one jump ahead.
Rush really shines on “I’m Tired,” bare-bones blues with Rush’s weary vocals and mournful harp recalling the ’50s when he lived in Chicago, sitting in with bluemasters including Jimmy Reed and the Wolf.
Last year’s anthology, Chicken Heads: A 50 Year History of Bobby Rush, revealed a stellar past, but Porcupine Meat reassures Rush fans that the future will be just as much fun.