July 12, 2024

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CD review: Bobby Rush – All My Love For You – 2024: Video, CD cover

All My Love For You, Bobby Rush’s latest album, features all original songs that, according to Rush, were written while he was “down with COVID” and reflected on where life is going to take him next. These new songs provide insights into a man who loves telling a good story and has fun doing so, while emphasizing the groove—that Bobby Rush funky groove—audiences have adored for more than sixty years.

Over the past ten years, this funk blues icon, now 89 years old, garnered numerous music industry nominations and awards—2 Grammys, a Blues Blast Magazine Lifetime Achievement award and 14 Blues Music Awards—along with countless accolades and other well-deserved publicity, and, in 2021, published an autobiography (I Ain’t Studdin’ You: My American Blues Story).

If you want a story about perseverance and justice, it doesn’t get better than Bobby Rush. As “The King of the Chitlin’ Circuit”, he was an electric entertainer, a singing and dancing machine. He grinded through night after night at bars and juke joints and small theaters.

The Blues Hall of Famer was loved and respected by fans and musicians, but other than his 1971 Top 40 R&B hit “Chicken Heads”, he didn’t really burst into the mainstream public’s consciousness until he recently won three Grammy Awards for Best Traditional Blues Album, all after the age of 82. “Things came a little late in my life, but it wasn’t time earlier. I’m so glad God allowed me the chance to enjoy some things, even at my late age in life,” Rush said.

While he is the proto-typical blues musician, Bobby Rush can’t be pigeonholed. He brought the funk before the 70’s funk boom. He’s been called the master of “folk funk.” He worked blue and rapped before the advent of hip hop. He plays the harp in the same style as his mentor Sonny Boy Williamson II, who told him, “It doesn’t matter what you wear, it’s what you sound like.” Close your eyes and listen to Rush’s 2021 acoustic blues album Rawer Than Raw and you feel like you’re on the back porch alone with him in 1949.

At 90 years old, Rush is one of the last living blues men that made the move from the South to Chicago in the middle of the twentieth century when blues was becoming widely popular. He was a contemporary of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, and such. He tells tales of living through Jim Crow and growing up black in Louisiana and Mississippi, but remains positive, even joyous about his journey. “I used to carry water 15 miles a day for 50 cents. I used to pick cotton in a cotton field, it’s a shame that young you work that hard. People can see I’ve got no chips on my shoulder. I do good music and hope everyone likes it. It’s not a black and white issue with Bobby Rush. It’s about the music.”

In an August interview on NPR’s All Things Considered, Bobby Rush was asked about his recent “fame,” his Grammys, and recording more music. Rush responded, “I have fun with everything I do. I have fun every day. Every day I get up is fun because when I think about what it could have been, I’m so thankful for what it is.”

He followed that up with, “Yeah, doing what I want to do and what I wanted to do all the time, was strip my music down to the bare storytelling.”

And much like his friend and current contemporary, Buddy Guy, Rush continues having fun and telling stories the way he knows best.

Bobby Rush (born Emmett Ellis Jr) is joined on this album by Dexter Allen (guitar and bass) and Joey Robinson (drums and keyboards). In addition to the guitar, Rush handles all vocals and, of course, the harmonica. Allen engineered the album, and he and Robinson were responsible for all mixing. This three-man ensemble’s superb musical skills are on display throughout this tightly produced record.

Themes of fun, funk, and love are found throughout the album. “Running In And Out” has that toe-tapping, funk-filled groove that is signature Bobby Rush. “TV Mama” is fun and fresh with Robinson’s grinding keyboard baseline, while Rush sings about loving his woman with the big wide screen. With its slow, steady beat, “You’re Gonna Need A Man Like Me” takes you back to those Delta blues standards from long ago, including a haunting melody, and ends with a terrific harmonica outro.

“I’m The One” touches each one of these themes with its robust story-telling, a driving backbeat, and sensational musicianship from this small studio ensemble. The song might be best described as a Bobby Rush anthem and may soon become a fan favorite wherever Rush performs live.

All My Love For You begins with “I’m Free,” an autobiographical insight into Rush’s boyhood and early years. Solid harp playing and that signature funk provide a strong start to the album. “One Monkey Can Stop A Show” features a standard blues draw with a heavy keyboard rhythm and a brass-inspired beat. Rush’s storytelling prowess is on display for “I’ll Do Anything For You” with its bluesy beat and call-and-response guitar riffs. The album ends with “I Got A Proposition For You,” a barrelhouse-inspired piano and keyboard number, which also highlights this small tight ensembles’ musicianship.

With All My Love For You, Rush proves that he is definitely The One—a gifted and talented artist who continues to bridge the past with the present. A true gift for today’s blues fans, Rush has earned the right to be called an elder statesman of the genre that is the backbone of modern American music.

Rush has toured the world, spreading the gospel of the blues, and being named “International Dean of the Blues” and “Friendship Ambassador to the Great Wall of China.” He truly loves the music and the opportunity to still share it with people. It’s impossible to be in a bad mood in his presence. “Blues is the mother of all music. If you don’t love the blues, you probably don’t like your mama.”

Rush is taking advantage of his moment. He was recently featured on the Grammy-winning album by The Count Basie Orchestra directed by Scotty Barnhart Basie Swings the Blues. He will appear on the forthcoming Lou Reed tribute album The Power of the Heart. A street was named after him in his adopted hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. He is touring behind this year’s Grammy-winning album All My Love For You both as a solo act and as an opening act for his friend Buddy Guy’s farewell tour. He met Guy in 1956 in Chicago. “For the last 20-25 years, we have come to grow more than friends, like brothers now,” Rush said. “We are the two oldest blues singers in this category now. Buddy gave me so much insight in life. We is the blues, this is it. Bobby Rush/Buddy Guy, Buddy Guy/Bobby Rush. Last of the kind!”

Bobby Rush's latest album is All My Love For You
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