When Bobby Rush speaks, you listen. The 79 year old bluesman tells tales of an era which has it’s very own shelf on the wall of americana. The son of a preacher with real name Emmit Ellis Jnr, Bobby re-branded himself out of respect to his father. Rush spends his time reminiscing. He represents a slice of history which houses the likes of Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters and Sonny Boy Williamson. The Louisiana man and two time Grammy nominee is responsible for the 2014 release, ‘Decisions’. A mixture of Southern Blues and Funk, Bobby is joined by Blinddog Smokin’, who fill the tracks with their smooth musical expertise.
The album is simply full. Rush treats the sacred music of American Blues with a smile on his face. He approaches with a swagger and a mile wide grin. Funky Old Man is built with strong funk elements. The percussive guitar strokes, call and response dialogue and roaming bass is mixed with a gospel organ and brass to create a colourful and well constructed track. Bobby sings of old age. His tongue in cheek depiction of life in your seventies is charming. He injects aged life into the track with a brief rap segment, listing his various ailments. The track is energised and oozes experience with a strong musical competence.
Another Murder in New Orleans captures the essence of the deep south wonderfully. The track rolls along as a murder mystery unfolds and provokes images of smoky bars and darkened Louisiana streets. There is pain in the lyrics. Rush is at his most emotive and the jazz piano solo only exaggerates the murky tones. The lead guitar is rapid and it’s tone allows it to move through the track without becoming lost. The energies of the work intoxicate and demand your full attention.
The themes of the work shift throughout. Dr Rush depicts a dialogue between a radio agony aunt and his listeners. Calling the radio station for advice on dealing with cheating women, Bobby encourages the desperate men to fatten up their women so as to render them too large to stray. Rush’s old school approach speaks the language of a time passed. This however does not date the track but injects a certain historic personality. The theme seems strange in a modern context but Rush’s voice is one which has spoken since the 30s’ and so is not problematic but intriguing.
The experimentation is continuous and can be seen in Stand Back where latin guitar, brass and percussion is mixed with rapping verse’s. This can then be contrasted with Too Much Weekend which combines a delta blues guitar riff with an every-man work theme, as the ailing drinker expresses a strong remorse for his actions.
The album is packed. The tracks are breathed with experience and are constructed in a highly attractive manner. The balance of the tracks is highly pleasing and the shifting and collision of themes draws the listener ever closer. Bobby Rush is 79 years old but his age is not significant for it’s number but it is significant for the expertise which it holds and the artists and styles which it has absorbed. There is nothing superfluous about ‘Decisions’. It slides and rolls on by as you tip your cap.