Born as Emmit Ellis, Jr. on Novermber 10 n1940 in Homer,
Louisiana, Bobby Rush has become a blues legend with a signature
sound he calls "Folk Funk". While initially a Chicago blues singer
he eventually broke through with his funkified, soul/blues
with risqué subject matter. In 1971 he scored a #34 R & B hit
with "Chicken Heads" and soon followed that up with regional hits on
Jewel Records like "It's Alright", "Bow-Legged Woman, Knock Kneed
Man" & "She's A Good'un".
Bobby began crafting a unique style that
incorporated blues, funk and folk. From Jewel, he went to Warner
Brothers then to Philadelphia International Records. By 1982, Rush
had signed with LaJam Records out of Jackson, Mississippi, where he
released five albums, one of which was the phenomenally successful
hit Sue, and became a major attraction in the South. But it was in
1995 that Bobby found a home at Malaco's Waldoxy label. At Waldoxy,
he released One Monkey Don't Stop No Show which was nominated for
two W. C. Handy Awards. The Living Blues Critics' Poll named him the
year's Best Live Performer in 1995. In 1996 and 1997, he captured the Real Blues Magazine Award as The Best
Soul/R & B Live Performer. After leaving Waldoxy 2003 was a
pivotal year for Rush as he was prominently featured in Richard
Pearce's documentary film "The Road To Memphis," broadcast on PBS as
part of Martin Scorsese's film series "The Blues" and also saw the
launch of his Deep Rush record label. He's released three excellent
albums to date on the label. His live shows are a riot with his
vaudevillian instincts, horny showmanship, and knack for
writing tunes that brim with playful down-home
"Rush Hour" (Philadelphia International 1979)
1. I Wanna Do the Do
**** Funky bluesman Bobby Rush hooks up with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff for Philadelphia International. But rather than a try a "Philly soul" production they let Bobby be Bobby and funk it up. They do have him cover Jerry Butler's hit "Hey Western (Send A Telegram)" as a swinging blues with doo wop backups but Rush co-wrote the seven others tracks- mostly with Leon Huff and it's typical Bobby. The funky "I Wanna Do The Do" is vintage Rush, which reached a modest #75 on R & B charts. "I Can't Find My Keys", "Let's Do It Together" (with wicked bassline) & "Nickname" mine similar ground.
"Sue" (La Jam 1982)
1. Be Still
***** Rush makes his masterpiece with La Jam Records on this "folk funk" tour-de-force. Rush is a great storyteller, spinning folksy, urban "raps" throughout his fat, bass-heavy grooves. The title cut (and character) is one of his biggest hits. Everybody knows about Sue. Rush's daddy tells him to stay away from Sue but "daddy don't know what the hell Sue puttin' down". On an extended rap he says he's gonna tell you "what Sue did to me". He proceeds to tease the listener- stretching it out for some four minutes. Bobby says "she kneeled down" and...... Do you want to know what she did? Well, Bobby says "I can't tell ya!". But Bobby finally tells you after asking "Is everybody grown here?" and it may not be what you're thinking. I'll let you find out. "Be Still" is nearly as good where Bobby wants to leave her but she wants to lay it on him one last time. In "Twenty-Eight Days" Bobby ain't "made love" and it ain't happy about it. The cut slowly builds on a easy going New Orleans groove with Bobby telling a tale about coming home to find a man sneaking out his door. Just in case you think he should hit his woman Bobby gives some advice to the fellas. "Don't you ever whip a woman/One that fixes dinner for you/Because it ain't no telling what the sweet thing'll do to you/She'll fix you breakfast one morning and bring it to your bed/and if you feed it to your dog it would fall down dead." The rolling "Talk To Your Daughter" is an uptempo number with a gospel rhythm. Bobby has a tendency to take someone else's song and turn it into an original composition. For example "Think Pt. 1 & 2" is basically the same idea as Lowell Paulman's classic, a hit for James Brown, but with a different groove and lyrics. Nevertheless this is THE Bobby Rush album.
"Gotta Have Money" (La Jam 1984)
1. Gotta Have Money
*** Decent follow up to "Sue" contains the hits "Gotta Have Money", a reprisal of his 1968 ABC single, and the funky "Buttermilk Kid" which introduces a heavy synthesizer to his music- an artifact of the times.
"What's Good For The Goose Is Good For The Gander" (La Jam 1985)
1. What's Good for the Goose Is
Good for the Gander
** Heavily-synthesized funk album featuring the soul/blues title cut and various songs derivative of other better known numbers. "Call On Me" is a silly ripoff of Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters", while "Shakey Ground" is frustratingly similar to the Temptations hit of the same name. While this is mostly pop/funk Rush also writes a strong midtempo soul cut with "Hurry Home". The grooves wear a little thin by the end of this 8-song album and it only clocks in at about 31 minutes
"A Man Can Give It But He Can't Take It" (La Jam)
1. Man Can Give It, A (But He
Can't Take It)
*** Funky Bobby Rush leans into ZZ Hill soul/blues territory on this fairly consistent LP. All 8 songs written by Rush. The title track is a great "down home blues"-style cut that the ladies may embrace. "Bad Mother Fo Ya" (not the Johnny Watson song), "I Am Tired", "Hurt Me So Bad" are all serviceable bluesers while "Nine Below Zero", although the same name as a Sonny Boy Williamson blues song, brings some funk to the fore. Like a lot of music cut in the 80s the production hasn't aged well.
"Wearing It Out" (La Jam)
1. Making a Decision
**1/2 Synth-funk and soul/blues collection featuring one of Bobby's biggest hits with the title cut. "Wearing It Out" rivals Clarence Carter's "Strokin'" when it comes to boasting about bedroom behavior. Other than this, "Making A Decision" and "Boom Boom" there isn't much here that Rush hasn't done better elsewhere. "Bertha Jean" is even a lame re-write of "Sue".
"I Ain't Studdin' You" (Urgent 1991)
1. I Ain't Studdin' You
**1/2 After an uneven stint with La Jam Rush moves over to the Urgent! label, distributed by Ichiban. Like the last 4 or 5 Bobby Rush albums there's a couple killer cuts and lots of retreads. The super title track has become one of Bobby's concert staples. "You, You, You (Know What To Do)" is catchy fun. There's also a decent blues tune, "Blues Singer". The set is overproduced- full of cheesy keyboards and drum machines but if you can get past this hurdle you'll enjoy this record. "Studdin'" managed to creep up to #69 on Billboard's top R & B Albums chart.
"Instant Replay: The Hits" (Urgent! 1991)
*** Short (8 song) retrospective of Bobby's La Jam years includes big ones like "Sue", "Wearing It Out" & "What's Good For The Goose Is Good For The Gander" but is rendered obsolete by "The Best Of Bobby Rush" on La Jam.
"Handy Man" (Urgent! 1992)
1. Handy Man
*** Second Urgent! offering is a loose set having a little more variety than the typical Rush album. Things start off with "Handy Man", which nicks the hook of "Candy Man". Rush fires off some cheeky Chick Willis-like innuendos: "I don't claim to be a plumber but I'm just the plumber's son but I'll plug your hole 'til the plumber comes". One of Rush's best and most straightforward slow songs is "Crazy About You". Meanwhile "What's That" features cocktail piano jazz flavors and "Easy Baby" and "Flashback" are very good modern Chicago blues.
"She's A Goodun' (It's Alright)" (Ronn 1995)
Repackaged and re-issued as "Absolutely The Best" on Fuel2000. See below.
1. It's Alright
"One Monkey Don't Stop No Show" (Waldoxy 1995)
1. One Monkey Don't Stop No Show
**1/2 Rush is up to his borrowing antics again on his debut for Malaco's Waldoxy label as the majority of the cuts are re-writes of other songs ("Blues With A Feeling", "One Monkey", "Cut Me In") but it contains two great Rush originals with "Hen Pecked" ("I'm Not hen pecked I've just been pecked by the right hen!") and the sparse, moody "Jezebel". "I Need Someone" is a fine, slow soul/blues with some Rush harmonica. Once again, though, it sounds so much like ZZ Hill's "I Need Someone" you wonder why he changed some of the lyrics.
"Lovin' A Big Fat Woman" (Waldoxy 1997)
1. Big Fat Woman
*** More chitlin' circuit folkfunky soul music from the legend. The set opens on a low note with the irritating title cut- an inferior ripoff of Joe Tex's "Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)". Why not just cover the original? But the cute "Booga Bear" erases that misstep. The swinging "Can't Save A Cent" is a welcome surprise to a Bobby Rush album. We encourage him to try this again. "Me And My Harp" is a sweet harmonica instrumental. There's lots of blues here ("Buttermilk Bottom", "Cold Hearted Woman") and Rush sounds at the top of his game.
Bobby Rush Lynn White "Southern Soul" (Cannonball 1998)
1. I Need a Bed Bartner
***1/2Two giants of the Southern Soul and blues circuit evenly split these 12 tracks but unfortunately don't appear together on any of them. Willie Mitchell produced all tracks. Rush's best moments come via "I Need A Bed Partner," "Funky Way to Treat Your Woman" and "I've Been Watchin' You" while White tears it upon "Get Your Lie Straight," "Down the Line" and "I Don't Want to Ever See Your Face Again." While none of these tracks rank amongst either's best, it's a must for fans.
"The Best Of" (La Jam 1999)
**** Being that most of Rush's La Jam records were hit-and-miss affairs, a compilation of the very best tracks is a welcomed endeavor. Still, the track selection isn't perfect as several mediocre tracks ("Bertha Jean", "Shakey Ground") appear in place of superior efforts ("Hurry Home", "Bad Mother For Ya"). Still you do get the cream of the crop like "Sue", "Wearing It Out", "Be Still", "A Man Can Give It", "Buttermilk Kid" all on one album. Buy this along with "Sue" and you got almost all you need from this period of his career.
"Hoochie Man" (Waldoxy 2000)
1. I Like It
**** The flamboyant blues funkster is back with one of his better albums. Live musicians play on this tight set of 8 Rush originals, one co-write and one cover. Rush handles the vocals, harmonica, and even a little guitar. The talented Vasti Jackson helps with guitar and bass work. The title cut is in the spirit of "What's Good For The Goose is Good For The Gander"; if a woman can be a "hoochie mama" Bobby can be a "Hoochie Man". It's another classic lowdown funky number with risqué lyrics like "Used to wear your dresses down to your ankle/Now you wear 'em so short you can see your twankle." Rush's vocals sound increasingly similar to Joe Tex and Ray Charles in their funkiest outfits. On the slow blues "Garbage Man" he loses his woman to the trash collector so he's gonna buy a garbage truck of his own. Rush is a zany cat! "Beat Me Rockin" contains a steady midtempo groove and scratchy guitar that will have your body movin' I promise. His self-effacing humour is present via "Too Short, Too Little" where Bobby's equipment isn't enough for the job. This fine soul/blues/funk gumbo closes with a ripping blues instrumental "Scootchin" featuring Rush's more than adequate harp skills.
"Live At Ground Zero" (Deep Rush 2003)
1. She's So Fine
***1/2 There's no denying that Bobby's at his best when he's live. His bawdy, sexed-up chitlin' circuit shows are the stuff of legend so it's a no-brainer purchase here. You get a live CD and a DVD of a Bobby Rush show. While you still have to see him live to get the full treatment (this show is a little tamer than usual), this will give you an idea as to why he is consistently voted one of the best live acts on the road.
"Undercover Lover" (Deep Rush 2003)
1. Undercover Lover
***1/2 Bobby plays to all his strengths on this solid release on his own Deep Rush imprint- everything from grinding 12-bar blues, Southern Soul, soul/blues dance-workouts and even a pop-soul ballad, "Love Is A Gamble". The smash "Dirty Dog" is Southern Soul melody on top of some bottom-heavy drums and sweet keyboard swatches. That urban wit shines on the slow grinding folkfunk/blues "Tough Titty" with the refrain: "That's a tough titty y'all/And can't nobody suck it but a lion". The album is a mix of live musicians and synths and Rush has never sounded better vocally.
"Absolutely The Best" (Fuel2000 2003)
1. It's Alright
**** Great collection of early 70s Jewel singles like the "Sue"-precursor "She's A Good'un", discofied "It's Alright" and folkfunky "Bow-Legged Woman, Knock-Kneed Man". The "I Don't Know (Dust My Broom Medley)" on which Rush plays some greasy mouth harp is the best blues Rush has cut and "Get Out Of Here With Your Boom Boom" is some nasty funk.
"FolkFunk" (Deep Rush 2004)
1. Feeling Good, Pt. 1
**** Bobby has been on a roll since he started his own label and appeared on Martin Scorcese's "The Blues" documentary. He's been releasing his most accordant, mainstream-appealing albums of his career. It's clear he's gunning for the respect he surely deserves. For "FolkFunk", the term Rush uses to describe his music, Rush stripped down to basics (harp, guitar, bass and drums) and lays down some funky blues like only he can. Guitarist Alvin Youngblood Hart plus Stax session drummer Charlie Jenkins and Steve Johnson on bass from Rush's regular band. On "Ninety-Nine" he's joined by guitarist Jesse Robinson, who led Rush's band some two decades ago. The set opens with the boogie/shuffle "Feeling Good Pt. 1" as Rush aims to recreate the traditional blues he heard growing up in Louisiana and Arkansas back in the 40's. But he also puts down funk, soul, blues, chitlin' circuit grease and even a taste of New Orleans ("Saints Gotta Move" incorporates "When The Saints Go Marching In" and "You Gotta Move"). The album is cohesive from track one ("Feeling Good Pt. 1") to the last track ("Feeling Good Pt. 2") and shows Rush may be at the creative peak of his career.
"Night Fishin'" (Deep Rush 2005)
1. Night Fishin'
**1/2 The last few years produced a bountiful crop for the superbad Bobby Rush: an acclaimed DVD, a couple high quality soul, funk & blues CDs ("Undercover Lover", "Folk Funk"), so expectations were high for what would be reaped next. Well, Bobby's back but it appears the soil was depleted or perhaps he forgot to bring the first fruits, i.e., good jams, from the harvest. Instead he sent a bottle of twice pressed olive oil and some stale bread. There's an auspicious beginning with the funky title cut (recycling the fertile bass lick from "Sue")- although it was much better live. The song features his adroitness for double entendre. Next comes a serviceable midtempo Southern Soul song ("I'm Tired Of That Who Said Mess"). The somewhat clumsy "G-String" tries but never quiet hits the spot. "Who's Fooling Who" (not the Johnnie Taylor hit) is catchy although a blanch imitation of his 2003 hit "Dirty Dog". The slinky "Checkout Time" is not too shabby but the cliche'-ridden "Slip Trip Fell In Love" may cause you to fall into sleep. Nothing that follows will likely disturb your slumber. Part of the problem is the sluggish and feeble production by Rush. I'll just write this one off as an off year. Call much of it it "Folk Flunk". BUT (pun intended) don't miss his show if he comes to your town!
"Hen Pecked" (601 Music 2005)
1. Hen Pecked
*** Budget-priced collection of Malaco material
"The Essential Recordings Vol. 1" (Deep Rush 2006) LISTEN
1. Handy Man
"The Essential Recordings Vol. 2" (Deep Rush 2006) LISTEN
1. I Ain't Studdin You
Essential Recordings Vol. 1" (Deep Rush)
The firstfruits of Bobby's plan to rehaul his catalogue with a serious of collections beginning with "The Essential Recordings" Volumes 1 & 2, which gather hits, key album tracks and a couple unreleased goodies. "Volume 1" salvages four tracks from the out-of-print LP "Handy Man". The title cut is typical rush- recycling the fertile Bassline from 'Sue" and borrowing heavily from a familiar song (in this case "The Candy Man"). Also included from the record is "Crazy About You", "What's That" & "I'm Gone", which a mid-quality Rush. He cherry picks from his successful La Jam discography with "Dr. Funk", 'Man Can Give It" & two tracks from the "Sue" album ("Talk To Your Daughter", "In The Morning"). The two unreleased cuts are a clunky version of "Take Me To The River" and a slow harmonica Blues ("Dedication") that pays homage to some of Bobby's heroes n' friends. "Volume 2" commences with a group of tracks (5) from the out-of-print LP "I Ain't Studdin' You" (the title track, "Time To Hit The Road Again", "You, You, You", "Hand Jive" & "Blues Singer"), some La Jam tracks ("What's Good For the Goose", "Gotta Have Money") and two unreleased numbers. The better of the two is his demo-like take on Sonny Boy Williamson's "Help Me". Mish Mash collections such as these are a questionable proposal commercially but being they're comprised of mostly hard-to-find and unreleased cuts they serve a purpose.
"Raw" (Deep Rush 2007) LISTEN
1. Boney Maroney
*** Because Bobby Rush is known as one of the hippest of funksters around the notion of an acoustic Blues record "unplugged"-style may not whet your appetite. But to ignore"Raw" would be your loss as it's just as charming as any Bobby Rush LP. Afterall Bobby can't help but be cool with his delivery and attitude and on "Raw" he relies on such rather than fat booty basslines and synth. 10 of the 13 cuts are Rush originals (though derivative as usual. "What's Going On" is "Smokestack Lightning" with different lyrics for example) with Bobby stompin' his foot, playing acoustic guitar and blowing his chromatic and diatonic harp harmonicas. Proof that it's a success: Consider that one of the covers, "Boney Moroney", is a ridiculous piece of fluff but Bobby's take transforms it into good Delta Blues! Of the originals "Glad To Get You Back" jumps out thanks to slide guitar accompaniment by Shawn Kellerman. A little more fullness would've bettered some of the tracks (Kellerman also appears on "Knockin' At Your Door" & "I Got Three Problems") but perhaps that would belie keeping it real and "raw". A smart career move if you ask me and if you dig them early foot-stompin' John Lee Hooker records you'll really enjoy this.
"Look At What You're Gettin'" (Deep Rush 2008) LISTEN
1. Another Kind of Fool
**1/2 Bobby needs to let somebody produce him. There's something lacking in both his previous Soul/Blues-aiming release ("Night Fishin'") and this new 11 song set. I don't want to pile on with all the others about synthesized horns, but sometimes they just come off better than others. The cheapo sounds found on "Another Kind Of Fool" just annoy me. Otherwise a nifty, slow burner. Don't get me started on the tippity-tap drums found throughout. Bobby's still got style and jive coming out the ying yang but he's in a Funk slump. True, the title track t0 2005's "Night Fishin'" had the right groove but for those hoping for another one of those jams you won't find it. Instead there's half-baked dribble like "Let Me Love You" that robs verses from more famous songs like Otis Redding's "Hard To Handle" and the frustrating title cut, which could've been a thumper but never kicks into gear. It does have a hook at least ("Di-duh-di-dit...look at what you gettin'), which isn't the case with most of the songs here. Maybe Bobby should just stick to the Contemporary Blues market because that's where he seems to score.
"Blind Snake" (Deep Rush 2009) LISTEN
1. Blind Snake
"Show You A Good Time" (Deep Rush 2011) LISTEN
"Live At Jazz Fest 2012" (Munck Mix 2012)
"Down In Louisiana" (Thirty Tigers 2013)
1. Down in Louisiana
Bobby Rush with Blind Dog Smokin' "Decisions" (Silver Talon 2014)
1. Another Murder in New Orleans
"Porcupine Meat" (Rounder 2016)
1 I Don't Want
Nobody Hanging Around