Blues is a tricky genre to grasp. Born out of necessity, the slow-meter storytelling strikes the deepest heartstrings.
If there are any ways to fuel the soul, it would be a small pawn shop, overflowing with old guitars and rusty harmonicas off the Alabama crossroads. Grab some Robert Johnson jet fuel or B.B. King kerosene and start pumping because Bobby Rush just came home with dinner fresh off the asphalt, “Porcupine Meat.”
When searching through the archives of well-to-do blues artists, the name Bobby Rush usually takes a few scrolls to find.
At the ripe age of 82, he is still rocking blues festivals from the Windy City to Bayou Betty’s front porch. His first hit was an unorthodox track entitled “Chicken Heads” in 1971. His 20-year career then picked up momentum all the way to current day.
The album “Porcupine Meat” was released earlier this month to raves from isolated audiences. The track list delves into the hardships of love-hungry men trying to get through their older years.
Rush’s passionate vocals on certain topics adds a layer of comedic value, shining light on the blues topic of an improved lifestyle. The opening song illustrates this perfectly.
“I Don’t Want Nobody Hanging Around” begins with a distorted slap-bass and howling harmonica, setting the mood for pain and suffering. Rush chimes in with an insecure plea for the world to stay far from his house and woman while he is away. The lack of trust in the milkman and mailman alike make for some entertaining lyrics.
The song itself is quite atmospheric, taking the mind to the overnight train-of-thought on the Grand Funk Railroad. Overall, the lyrics are repetitive but humorous, and the music blends the blues and funk genres for some easy-listening euphoria. The title track takes the implied silliness to a serious tone found only at the jazz club downtown.
“Porcupine Meat” graces the eardrums with an electric organ and distorted guitar dreamscape. Rush treats the listener to a classic tale of love and hate, setting a foundation for the sensual simile stamped on the front cover.
“It’s like porcupine meat, too fat to eat, too lean to throw away” is a jarring connection to the life and strife of the heart’s daily activity. An ideal blues track, it sets quite a precedent for the remainder of the album.
“Got Me Accused” follows with the only pure blues line on the record, ticking along the old grandfather clock. The tale hits close to Rush’s heart, retelling the time of his trouble with police.
The harmonica solos really hit home the jailhouse vibe portrayed here. One accusation after another spirals the hope for freedom down the river to the rocky waterfalls.
Music of this nature really tackles the tension between police and their respective communities, protesting the ludicrous charges crafted to get someone behind bars. A much-appreciated look back to classic blues, the lengthy tune assures audiences that Rush is not a one style musician.
“Funk O’ De Funk” promises just as it advertises with a week-old sock drawer of funky R&B. Taking a look back to the heyday of circular sunglasses and flower-print frocks, the tune emulates the nasty noises of the heavy bass and rhythm days of the 1960’s.
The band flies the listener on an all expenses ‘played’ trip to New Orleans, the birthplace of the genre. Like the song before, the track stands as the purest of its style, while the rest combine elements to make the pack-mule of music.
The remaining B-tracks follow the time-tested pattern: a funkadelic groove framing the portrait of the day’s particular hardship. Whether it be a woman or the police, Rush knows how to tie together the most abstract analogies, like “Catfish Stew” and “Nighttime Gardener,” with relatable struggles of the soul.
The album, “Porcupine Meat,” stands as a solid blues album, but it’s not quite the next “Lemonade.” Popular music today perfects every beat, rhythm and melodic line with technology, stirring a bias in the general public against natural music.
The tracks will be wondrous additions to the blues and funk repertoire, but the millenial perspective is that this record will not be overly popular with current audiences.
However, many aficionados of audio see past popular house and pop chart-toppers to see the soirée of yesterday’s legends still kicking across the stage.
As a recommendation, listen to the record with the understanding that some lyrics are comical, but there is still underlying beauty in the blues sound. Soothe the soul with some savory “Porcupine Meat.”