Bobby Rush,
(Deep Rush, 2006)

Bobby Rush has been around since the 1950s and he built his reputation on his live shows, featuring an elaborate act complete with a large cooking band and sexy show girls. On Raw, with the exception of a dobro on three tracks, he goes it alone -- just Rush, his acoustic guitar and harmonica.

Taking a few pages from the classic blues songbook, he offers up a set of covers, from Larry Williams' "Boney Maroney" to Sonny Boy Williamson's immortal "School Girl" and Howlin' Wolf's "Howlin' Wolf." It's a relaxed set. Rush begins most songs by laying out a pattern on the guitar and not varying very much from it as the song builds, relying on his harmonica for range and coloration. His singing is calm, his voice supple with a teasing tone, as though he knows how very much more he could be doing with these songs but would rather play with our expectations.

On his full band electric albums, Rush has been known to over-sing, to try too hard, so it's good to hear him relaxed, letting his years of experience carry his authority.

His original songs, such as "I Got 3 Problems" and "9 Below Zero," venture into familiar Bobby Rush territory -- problems between lovers -- but these acoustic versions sound more pleading than angry.

Raw offers a too rarely seen side of Bobby Rush's talents. For the most part, it's a pretty successful strategy.

review by
Michael Scott Cain

9 February 2008

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