FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 11, 2016
BOBBY RUSH SIGNS TO ROUNDER RECORDS;
FIRST NEW ALBUM, PORCUPINE MEAT,
SLATED FOR SEPTEMBER 16 RELEASE
With special guests Dave Alvin, Joe Bonamassa, Keb’ Mo’, and Vasti Jackson, and backing from the New Orleans “A” team,
album cements Bobby Rush’s legacy
as blues’ most vital artist of his generation .
JACKSON, Miss. — Naming one’s album after a song titled “Porcupine Meat” may seem a little unusual — unless, of course, you’re Bobby Rush, who earned his first gold record in 1971 with a hit entitled “Chicken Heads.” He elaborates on his recent composition: “If a lady won’t treat me right, but she doesn’t want anyone else to have me, that is hard to digest.” Hence the lyric, “too fat to eat, too lean to throw away.”
Porcupine Meat is Rush’s debut release for Rounder Records, and one of the best recordings of his astonishing 60-plus year career. The album is due out September 16, 2016.
Rush estimates that he has cut over 300 songs since he first began making music. He has been honored with three Grammy nominations, as well as ten Blues Music Awards and 41 nominations. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2006.
Make no mistake: Rush is not your typical octogenarian. At age 82, he exudes the energy of a 20-year-old, on the road for more than 200 dates a year. His hectic tour schedule has earned him the affectionate title King of the Chitlin’ Circuit. Rush has traveled the globe including Japan and Beirut. In 2007, he earned the distinction of being the first blues artist to play at the Great Wall of China. His renowned stage act features his famed shake dancers, who personify his funky blues and the ribald humor that he has cultivated during the course of his storied career.
Born Emmet Ellis, Jr. in Homer, Louisiana, he adopted the stage name Bobby Rush out of respect for his father, a pastor. According to Rush, his parents never talked about the blues being the devil’s music. “My daddy never told me to sing the blues, but he also didn’t tell me to not sing the blues. I took that as a green light.”
Rush built his first guitar when he was a youngster. “I didn’t know where to buy one, even if I had the money. I was a country boy,” he says. After seeing a picture of a guitar in a magazine, he decided to make one by attaching the top wire of a broom to a wall and fretting it with a bottle. He also got some harmonica lessons from his father He eventually acquired a real guitar, and started playing in juke joints as a teenager, when his family briefly relocated to Little Rock, Arkansas. The fake moustache Rush wore made club owners believe he was old enough to gain entry into their establishments. While he was living in Little Rock, Rush’s band, which featured Elmore James, had a residency at a nightspot called Jackrabbit.
During the mid-1950s, Rush relocated to Chicago to pursue his musical career and make a better life for himself. It was there that he started to work with Earl Hooker, Luther Allison, and Freddie King, and sat in with many of his musical heroes, such as Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Willie Dixon, and Little Walter. Rush eventually began leading his own band in the 1960s. He also started to craft his own distinct style of funky blues, and recorded a succession of singles for a various small labels. It wasn’t until the early 1970s that Rush finally scored a hit with “Chicken Heads.” More recordings followed, including an album for Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International Label.
Rush relocated one final time, to Jackson, Miss. in the early 1980s. He was tired of the cold up north, and he realized that setting up his base of operations directly in the center of the South would make it easier to perform in nearby cities on weekends. More indie label recordings followed. Songs like “Sue, A Man Can Give (But He Sure Can’t Take It),” “What’s Good For The Goose Is Good For The Gander Too,” and” I Ain’t Studdin’ You” became regional jukebox favorites in juke joints throughout the region, and many of those songs are still fan favorites that are an integral part of his live repertoire.
Since 2003, Rush has self-released the majority of his work (including the critically acclaimed Folk Funkalbum) on his Deep Rush label, but recently, he came to the realization that having a bigger record company behind him would be beneficial. “I outgrew myself,” he says. “I need someone to help in doing the things I can’t do. When you are wearing all the hats, you can’t be everywhere at once.”
Enter esteemed producer and two-time Grammy winner Scott Billington, Rounder Records’ longtime VP of A&R. Billington first met Rush at a Recording Academy meeting 25 years ago, and they became fast friends. He has wanted to work with Rush ever since. “He is the most vital bluesman of his generation,” says Billington. He continues, “There are many people who still don’t know Bobby Rush, even though he is a hero in the parallel universe of the Chitlin’ Circuit — fans stop him on the street in Memphis and Helena and Little Rock.”
Porcupine Meat will not only please Rush’s ol r fans, but is likely to win over many new ones. Billington reflects, “We wanted to come up with something fresh, while staying 100% true to Bobby.”
The album was recorded in New Orleans, and Rush was pleased and proud to be given the opportunity to make an album in his home state for the very first time. His impassioned vocals and in-the-pocket harmonica playing are among the best performances of his career. Unlike most of his recent releases, these sessions only feature real instruments and no synthesizers. All of the rhythm tracks were cut live in the studio, often edited down from jams that on several occasions ran close to ten minutes.
For the project, Billington assembled some of the best Louisiana musicians, including Shane Theriot, David Torkanowsky, Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander, Kirk Joseph, Cornell Williams, and others. Rush brought along his old friend and longtime collaborator, guitarist Vasti Jackson, who worked with Bobby and Scott on getting the songs ready for the studio. Guitar greats Dave Alvin, Keb’ Mo’, and Joe Bonamassa all make guest appearances on the album.
Rush has always been a prolific and clever songwriter. The songs he penned for Porcupine Meat such as “Dress Too Short,” “I Don’t Want Nobody Hanging Around,” “Me, Myself And I,” “Nighttime Gardener,” “It’s Your Move,” and the title selection, all equal or rival his best material. “Funk O’ De Funk” delivers exactly what the title suggests and what Rush has always done the best, which is putting the funk into the blues. While “Got Me Accused” is inspired by events from Rush’s own life, the lyrics tell an all-too-familiar tale about the rampant racial injustice that afflicts our society. Producer Billington and his wife Johnette Downing (the well known New Orleans songwriter and children’s musician) co-wrote a couple of fine selections, “Catfish Stew” and “Snake In The Grass.”
Bobby Rush is the greatest bluesman currently performing. Porcupine Meat is a testament to his brilliance, which presents him at his very best, and doesn’t try to be anything that he is not. “I just try to record good music and stories,” he humbly states. With this recording, he has more than accomplished his goal, and has produced one of the finest contemporary blues albums in recent times.
Online media kit: http://mediakits.concordmusicgroup.com/p/porcupine-meat /
Listen to a track on NPR Songs We Love: "I Don't Want Nobody Hanging Around": http://n.pr/29zXJ9Y
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 11, 2012
GRAMMY-NOMINATED BLUES INNOVATOR BOBBY RUSH
STAKES HIS CLAIM AS A LIVING LEGEND AUL THORN’S ‘WHAT THE HELL IS GOIN’ ON?’ DUE MAY 8
New studio album Down in Louisiana, due February 19, 2013, updates the sounds of the swamps and the juke joints
JACKSON, Miss. —Bobby Rush’s new Down in Louisiana is the work of a funky fire-breathing legend. Its 11 songs revel in the grit, grind and soul that’s been the blues innovator’s trademark since the 1960s, when he stood shoulder to shoulder on the stages of Chicago with Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter and other giants.
Of course, it’s hard to recognize a future giant when he’s standing among his mentors. But five decades later Down in Louisiana’s blend of deep roots, eclectic arrangements and raw modern production is clearly the stuff of towering artistry.
“This album started in the swamps and the juke joints, where my music started, and it’s also a brand new thing,” says the Grammy-nominated adopted son of Jackson, Mississippi. “Fifty years ago I put funk together with down-home blues to create my own style. Now, with Down in Louisiana, I’ve done the same thing with Cajun, reggae, pop, rock and blues, and it all sounds only like Bobby Rush.”
At 77, Rush still has an energy level that fits his name. He’s a prolific songwriter and one of the most vital live performers in the blues, able to execute daredevil splits on stage with the finesse of a young James Brown while singing and playing harmonica and guitar. Those talents have earned him multiple Blues Music Awards including Soul Blues Album of the Year, Acoustic Album of the Year, and, almost perennially, Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year.
As Down in Louisiana attests, he’s also one of the music’s finest storytellers, whether he’s evoking the thrill of finding love in “Down in Louisiana” — a song whose rhythmic accordion and churning beat evoke his Bayou State youth — or romping through one of his patented double-entendre funk rave-ups like “You’re Just Like a Dresser.”
Songs like the latter — with the tag line “You’re just like a dresser/Somebody’s always ramblin’ in your drawers” — and a stage show built around big-bottomed female dancers, ribald humor and hip-shaking grooves have made Rush today’s most popular blues attraction among African-American audiences. With more than 100 albums on his résumé, he’s the reigning king of the Chitlin’ Circuit, the network of clubs, theaters, halls and juke joints that first sprang up in the 1920s to cater to black audiences in the bad old days of segregation. A range of historic entertainers that includes Bessie Smith, Cab Calloway, B.B. King, Nat “King” Cole and Ray Charles emerged from this milieu. And Rush is proud to bear the torch for that tradition, and more.
“What I do goes back to the days of black vaudeville and Broadway, and — with my dancers on stage — even back to Africa,” Rush says. “It’s a spiritual thing, entwined with the deepest black roots, and with Down in Louisiana I’m taking those roots in a new direction so all kinds of audiences can experience my music and what it’s about.”
Compared to the big-band arrangements of the 13 albums Rush made while signed to Malaco Records, the Mississippi-based pre-eminent soul-blues label of the ’80s and ’90s, Down In Louisiana is a stripped down affair. The album ignited 18 months ago when Rush and producer Paul Brown, who’s played keyboards in Rush’s touring band, got together at Brown’s Nashville-based Ocean Soul Studios to build songs from the bones up.
“Everything started with just me and my guitar,” Rush explains. “Then Paul created the arrangements around what I’d done. It’s the first time I made an album like that and it felt really good.” Rush plans to tour behind the disc, his debut on Thirty Tigers, with a similar-sized group.
Down in Louisiana is spare on Rush’s usual personnel, — Brown on keys, drummer Pete Mendillo, guitarist Lou Rodriguez and longtime Rush bassist Terry Richardson — but doesn’t scrimp on funk. Every song is propelled by an appealing groove. Even the semi-autobiographical hard-times story “Tight Money,” which floats in on the call of Rush’s haunted harmonica, has a magnetic pull toward the dance floor. And “Don’t You Cry,” which Rush describes as “a new classic,” employs its lilting sway to evoke the vintage sound of electrified Delta blues à la Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. Rush counts those artists, along with B.B King, Ray Charles and Sonny Boy Williamson II, as major influences.
“You hear all of these elements in me,” Rush allows, “but nobody sounds like Bobby Rush.”
Rush began absorbing the blues almost from his birth in Homer, Louisiana, on November 10, 1935. “My first guitar was a piece of wire nailed up on a wall with a brick keeping it raised up on top and a bottle keeping it raised on the bottom,” he relates. “One day the brick fell out and hit me in the head, so I reversed the brick and the bottle.
“I might be hard-headed,” he adds, chuckling, “but I’m a fast learner.”
Rush quickly moved on to an actual six-string and the harmonica. He started playing juke joints in his teens, wearing a fake mustache so owners would think him old enough to perform in their clubs. In 1953 his family relocated to Chicago, where his musical education shifted to hyperspeed under the spell of Waters, Wolf, Williamson and the rest of the big dogs on the scene. Rush ran errands for slide six-string king Elmore James and got guitar lessons from Howlin’ Wolf. He traded harmonica licks with Little Walter and begin sitting in with his heroes.
In the ’60s Rush became a bandleader in order to realize the fresh funky soul-blues sound that he was developing in his head.
“James Brown was just two years older than me, and we both focused on that funk thing, driving on that one-chord beat,” Rush explains. “But James put modern words to it. I was walking the funk walk and talking the countrified blues talk — with the kinds of stories and lyrics that people who grew up down South listening to John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and bluesmen like that could relate to. And that’s been my trademark.”
After 1971’s percolating “Chicken Heads” became his first hit and cracked the R&B Top 40, Rush’s dedication increased. He relocated to Mississippi to be among the highest population of his core black blues-loving audience and put together a 12-piece touring ensemble. Record deals with Philadelphia International and Malaco came as his star rose, and his performances kept growing from the small juke joints where he’d started into nightclubs, civic auditoriums and, by the mid-’80s, Las Vegas casinos and the world’s most prominent blues festivals. Rush’s ascent was depicted in The Road to Memphis, a film co-starring B.B. King that was part of the 2003 PBS series Martin Scorsese Presents: The Blues.
In 2003 he established his own label, Deep Rush Productions, and has released nine titles under that imprint including his 2003 DVD+CD set Live At Ground Zero and 2007’s solo Raw. That disc led to his current relationship with Thirty Tigers, which distributed Raw and his two most recent albums, 2009’s Blind Snake and 2011’s Show You A Good Time (which took Best Soul Blues Album of the year that’s the 2012 BMAs), before signing him as an artist for Down in Louisiana.
Although his TV appearances, gigs at Lincoln Center and numerous Blues Music Awards attest to his acceptance by all blues fans, Rush hopes that the blend of the eclectic, inventive and down-home on Down in Louisiana will help further expand his audience.
“But no matter how much I cross over, whether it’s to a larger white audience or to college listeners or fans of Americana, I’ll never cross out who I am and where I’ve come from,” Rush promises. “My music’s always gonna be funky and honest, and it’s always gonna sound like Bobby Rush.”
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