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The Blues Rolls On

Elvin Bishop

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Album Review

Bishop hops labels once again, this time to the relatively young and scrappy Delta Groove imprint, while calling up some names in his obviously well-stocked Rolodex to assist on his first predominately studio album in three years. Like most guest studded affairs, this is an inconsistent but enjoyable romp. It also works as a career recap of sorts with Bishop revisiting "Yonder's Wall," a tune from his Butterfield Blues Band days (with Ronnie Baker Brooks and Tommy Castro), along with the Southern styled party sound that proved so commercially viable during his '70s Capricorn affiliation, in addition to other covers. He strips things down for a solo musical life history in "Oklahoma," an electric, educational traipse through his back pages from his early years in the titular state, set against stark, distorted boogie guitar. He taps the youngsters in the Homemade Jamz Blues Band, another Delta Groove signing, for a cool grooving version of Junior Wells' "Come On in This House," and features John Nemeth on vocals for three tracks and harp on the closing midtempo Jimmy Reed instrumental "Honest I Do," apparently the first blues song a young Bishop heard on his transistor radio as a child in Oklahoma. Fellow boogie man George Thorogood squares off with Bishop and takes lead vocals for a frolic through Hound Dog Taylor's "Send You Back to Georgia," and Bishop references his Capricorn days with current Allman Brothers Band guitarists Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes on a reworked "Struttin' My Stuff." B.B. King stops by for a short interview that leads into a jazzy, swinging cover of Roy Milton's "Keep a Dollar in Your Pocket," a song King was familiar with from his old Memphis DJ days. R.C. Carrier and Andre Thierry shift the proceedings to a bluesy, zippy zydeco on "Black Gal." As you can see, the album is pieced together from a variety of sessions in different locations, resulting in a patchwork set that, despite many excellent and above all enthusiastic performances, never quite gels. Like the collage of pictures on the back cover, this is more a scrapbook of Bishop playing with his pals and acquaintances than a focused project, but there is enough quality music here to attract established fans, even if this isn't the place to generate new ones.

Customer Reviews

Master blues guitarist has fun with his friends

Say “Elvin Bishop” to anyone weaned on 1970s pop radio, and they’ll answer “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.” The 1976 single’s vocal was so indelible that many listeners never realized it wasn’t Bishop, but instead soon-to-be Jefferson Starship vocalist Mickey Thomas. Bishop wrote the autobiographical lyrics, however, as well as an album (Struttin’ My Stuff) full of soul, pop, funk and even reggae. But his one trip to the upper reaches of the pop singles chart did little to reveal the depth of his musical credentials. In contrast, his previous solo outings had featured more direct helpings of the electric blues he’d developed as a founding member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Struttin’ My Stuff’s pop leanings weren’t unprecedented, as Bishop had been mixing rock, country, soul and R&B into his blues for years, but its upbeat vibe borrowed more heavily from bicentennial euphoria and the party atmosphere of Bishop’s stage work than the Chicago scene in which he’d been musically bred. Since Bishop’s chart breakthrough, he’s released over a dozen albums that have ranged from straight blues and country-tinged soul to humorous party-time sides. His latest, for Delta Groove, pulls together many of those elements for a guest-filled celebration of the blues. The title track opens the album with Bishop’s declaration of faith, recounting myriad influences and heroes and affirming the music’s future. The Fabulous Thunderbirds’ Kim Wilson adds his fine harp playing to the electric slides of Bishop and Allman Brother/Govt Mule’s Warren Haynes. A cover of “Night Time is the Right Time” is offered in tribute to Ray Charles, with John Nemeth and Angela Strehli sharing vocals and Bishop’s guitar playing call-and-response. Nemeth also provides a terrific vocal on the little-known Berry Gordy/Smokey Robinson blues “Who’s the Fool,” augmented by a bed-spring guitar solo from Kid Andersen. Bishop revisits the Butterfield era “Yonder’s Wall,” slowed here to a muscular mid-tempo for vocalist Ronnie Baker Brooks, and updates the funk of “Struttin’ My Stuff” with the addition of a bluesy rap. B.B. King provides sophistication on “Keep a Dollar in Your Pocket,” though Bishop’s broad vocal keeps it light. A pair of Junior Wells covers include the low and steady “Come on in this House,” and the strutting “I Found Out,” the latter featuring James Cotton on harp. Bishop picks a howling, distorted solo backing for the autobiographical “Oklahoma,” and George Thorogood amps up “Send You Back to Georgia” to a battle between flatpick and slide. The album closes with an emotional, instrumental cover of Jimmy Reed’s “Honest I Do,” with John Nemeth providing the high, slicing harmonica and Bishop’s slide guitar doing the talking. By stacking his guest list with veterans and rookies, and picking tunes both historical and, Bishop’s love letter connects the blues’ history with the vitality of its future. [©2008 hyperbolium dot com]

Blues as it was meant to be played!!

They don't make blues like this anymore. So glad to hear some new tunes from this legend as well as some good oldies. "Oklahoma" is probably my favorite track for its amusing autobiographical lyrics and "Come On in This House" is just a great blues jam session that you wish you'd sat in on. There are some great guests on this album that make it worth the buy, but Elvin is the star. He's only gotten better and 'bluer' with age.

The Blues (and Bishop) roll on, oh yeah!

There's something magical about Elvin Bishop -- his passionate heart for the blues, his rockabilly guitar and his "let's have some fun" attitude leave you with something the blues traditionally do not, and that's smiling! This album should be in a museum so that generations to come will know what the blues REALLY sound like. Elvin's appreciation for his roots and his inspirations shine by the company he keeps here, a virtual "who's who" in blues and rock circles. I've seen Bishop in concert 6-7 times over the decades: what you see is what you get, and you get feeling good about the blues with Elvin and that twinkle of fun and humor in his eye. He's still struttin' his stuff, honest he does.

Biography

Born: October 21, 1942 in Glendale, CA

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

A veteran guitarist who fused the blues with gospel, R&B, and country traditions, Elvin Bishop was born in Glendale, California, on October 21, 1942. He grew up on a farm in Iowa with no electricity or running water, and eventually moved to Oklahoma with his family when he was ten. Raised in an all-white community, his only exposure to African-American traditions was the radio, which introduced him to the sounds of blues stations in Shreveport, Louisiana. The piercing sound of Jimmy Reed's harmonica...
Full Bio