Bad Title, Good Blues

bishop.jpgElvin Bishop: Booty Bumpin’ (Blind Pig)

Back in 1966 Elvin Bishop was a skinny, guitar-carrying college kid from Tulsa chasing down his blues dream in Chicago. He ran into Paul Butterfield, was endowed with the alias “Pigboy Crabshaw,” and helped make some blues history. By the early '70s Bishop was recording, leading his own bands and establishing his own blues footprint. Over the years, Bishop forged a reputation as a showman who could deliver, had a few hits, recently had deep personal setbacks, and prevailed. Bishop is an experience best witnessed live, and this experience transfers well on his new disc, the forgivably titled Booty Bumpin’.

Recorded at Constable Jack’s Blues Club near Sacramento, CA last December, Booty Bumpin’ is a swaggering, punchy dose of what Elvin’s been up to all these years and just how good it still is. Kicking off with a big drum rumbling, Bishop and crew launch into “Stomp,” a scalding instrumental fueled by ample helpings of Bishop’s slashing slide guitar and keyboardist Steve Willis’s swamp-snaky accordion work. The good times proceed to roll for the next hour-plus. The seven-piece band includes Bishop veteran trombonist Ed Earley, alumnus of the late great Albert King Band. Earley steps out for vocals on one the set’s monster groove shuffles, “Feel Alright Again.” Harmonica guy John Nemeth guests on the raucous title instrumental.

One of the pleasures of this release is the abundance of Bishop’s signature guitar work, sometimes in short supply on the studio releases. His tone and style surfaced on his 1968 work on The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw with the Butterfield Blues Band, when he very capably rose to the occasion filling the void left by lead guitarist Mike Bloomfield’s departure. Bishop’s big, rich, yet almost laconic style, bolstered by monster slide chops, became the guitar voice of Butterfield’s final two Chicago-based band recordings. Bishop’s still in full voice, finessed with the ensuing decades of playing, as shown by the fat soloing on the slow blues instrumental “Belly Rubbin’.” Another slow blues, “Blue Flame,” is given additional heat by the guest playing of Bay Area blues guitarist Daniel Castro. The band closes on a rousing New Orleans-spiced note with Allen Toussaint’s “I’m Gone.”

Though Bishop throws in some of his country jive alter ego with “Stealin’ Watermelons” and “My Dog,” the emphasis here is on solid, meat-and-potatoes blues grooves guaranteed to send everyone home feeling well fed. A fun live blues party recording, so put it on the box, throw some sawdust out on the floor, put on some overalls, grab some cold beers, and forget all that downtown sophisticated shite for a little while. - Tali Madden

Elvin Bishop - Booty Bumpin'

tmadden.jpg

Mr. Madden escaped New York a few decades ago, and still misses his egg creams. Aside from a brief flirtation with the Desert Southwest, he's been damply ensconced for half his life in Portland, Oregon. The freelance writer has written extensively on blues and jazz for outlets including the late Blues Access magazine, contributed to the MusicHound Blues and Jazz album guides, and produced and programmed jazz broadcasts for public radio.

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