Bobby Rush fires up the acoustic Delta blues on Rawer Than RawJames Porteron August 10, 2020 at 5:00 pm

This is a huge oversimplification, but there are generally two kinds of blues crowds: the Black audience that gravitates toward soul singers, and the white audience that loves instrumental virtuosity. In their time, B.B. King and Albert King were two of the few blues artists to enjoy equal adoration from both crowds, and today Bobby Rush seems set to be the next to pull off that feat. Rush was born in Louisiana in 1933 and moved to Chicago with his family in the early 50s, and he’s become a mainstay on the local blues scene as well as on the chitlin’ circuit, with a live show famous for the shake dancers doing their thing behind him as he sang. Rush lit up the R&B charts in the 70s, 80s, and 90s with hits such as “Chicken Heads,” “I Ain’t Studdin’ You,” and “Sue.” Starting around the beginning of the millennium–roughly the same time he moved to Mississippi, to be near where his grandparents had lived–he began making new inroads into the higher-profile crossover circuit. While his fame has steadily risen ever since, he hasn’t changed much. His shows still feature shake dancers and the same risque songs, and he sounds as good as ever. If he performs two sets or a single longer show, he usually includes a solo segment where he plays acoustic Delta blues on the guitar. His new album, Rawer Than Raw (Deep Rush), is an entirely acoustic collection in that vein. A few of these songs are time-tested chestnuts already covered a thousand times–Elmore James’s “Dust My Broom,” for instance–but in Rush’s hands they never feel like tired genre exercises. He delivers this rough-edged, old-fashioned material with the same gusto he brings when the amps are plugged in. v

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