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Bobby Rush
Porcupine Meat
Release Date: September 16, 2016

Naming your album after a song entitled “Porcupine Meat” may seem a little unusual unless you’re Bobby Rush, who earned his first gold record in 1971 with a hit entitled “Chicken Heads.” He elaborates on his recent composition:  “If a lady won’t treat me right, but she doesn’t want anyone else to have me, that is hard to digest.” Hence the lyric, “too fat to eat, too lean to throw away.” Porcupine Meat is Rush’s debut release for Rounder Records, and one of the best recordings of his astonishing 60-plus year career.  Rush estimates that he has cut over 300 songs since he first began making music. He has been honored with three Grammy nominations, as well as 41 nominations and 10 awards from the Blues Foundation.

But make no mistake: Rush is not your typical octogenarian. At age 82, he exudes the energy of a 20 year old, and is on the road for over 200 dates a year. His hectic tour schedule has earned him the affectionate title “King of the Chitlin’ Circuit.” Rush has traveled the globe, and has performed in such faraway places as Japan and Beirut. In 2007, he earned the distinction of being the first blues artist to play at the Great Wall of China. His renowned stage act features his famed shake dancers, who personify his funky blues and the ribald humor that he has cultivated during the course of his storied career.

Born Emmet Ellis, Jr. in Homer, Louisiana, he adopted the stage name Bobby Rush out of respect for his father, a pastor. According to Rush, his parents never talked about the blues being the devil’s music. “My daddy never told me to sing the blues, but he also didn’t tell me to not sing the blues. I took that as a green light.”

Rush built his first guitar when he was a youngster. “I didn’t know where to buy one, even if I had the money. I was a country boy,” he says. After seeing a picture of a guitar in a magazine, he decided to make one by attaching the top wire of a broom to a wall and fretting it with a bottle. He also got some harmonica lessons from his father He eventually acquired a real guitar, and started playing in juke joints as a teenager, when his family briefly relocated to Little Rock, Arkansas. The fake moustache Rush wore made club owners believe he was old enough to gain entry into their establishments. While he was living in Little Rock, Rush’s band, which featured Elmore James, had a residency at a nightspot called Jackrabbit.

During the mid-1950s, Rush relocated to Chicago to pursue his musical career and make a better life for himself. It was there that he started to work with Earl Hooker, Luther Allison, and Freddie King. sat in with many of his musical heroes, such as Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Willie Dixon,and Little Walter. Rush eventually began leading his own band in the 1960s. He also started to craft his own distinct style of funky blues, and recorded a succession of singles for a various small labels. It wasn’t until the early 1970’s that Rush finally scored a hit with “Chicken Heads.” More recordings followed, including an album for Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International Label.

Rush relocated one final time to Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1980s. He was tired of the cold up north, and he realized that setting up his base of operations directly in the center of the South would make it easier to perform in nearby cities on weekends. More indie label recordings followed. Songs like “Sue, A Man Can Give (But He Sure Can’t Take It),” “What’s Good For The Goose Is Good For The Gander Too,” and” I Ain’t Studdin’ You” became regional jukebox favorites in juke joints throughout the region, and many of those songs are still fan favorites that are an integral part of his live repertoire.

Since 2003, Rush has self-released the majority of his work (including the critically acclaimed Folk Funk album) on his Deep Rush label, but recently, he came to the realization that having a bigger record company behind him would be beneficial. “I outgrew myself,” said Rush. “I need someone to help in doing the things I can’t do. When you are wearing all the hats, you can’t be everywhere at once.”

Enter esteemed producer and two-time Grammy winner Scott Billington, Rounder Records’ longtime VP of A&R. Billington first met Rush at a Recording Academy meeting 25 years ago, and they became fast friends. He has wanted to work with Rush ever since.  “He is the most vital bluesman of his generation,” said Billington. He continues, “There are many people who still don’t know Bobby Rush, even though he is a hero in the parallel universe of the Chitlin’ Circuit—fans stop him on the street in Memphis and Helena and Little Rock.”

Porcupine Meat will not only please Rush’s older fans, but is likely to win over many new ones. Billington reflects, “We wanted to come up with something fresh, while staying 100% true to Bobby.”

The album was recorded in New Orleans, and Rush was pleased and proud to be given the opportunity to make an album in his home state for the very first time. His impassioned vocals and in-the-pocket harmonica playing are among the best performances of his career. Unlike most of his recent releases, these sessions only feature real instruments and no synthesizers. All of the rhythm tracks were cut live in the studio, often edited down from jams that on several occasions ran close to ten minutes. 

For the project, Billington assembled some of the best Louisiana musicians, including Shane Theriot, David Torkanowsky, Jeffery “Jellybean” Alexander, Kirk Joseph, Cornell Williams, and others. Rush brought along his old friend and longtime collaborator, guitarist Vasti Jackson, who worked with Bobby and Scott on getting the songs ready for the studio. Guitar greats Dave Alvin, Keb’ Mo’, and Joe Bonamassa all make guest appearances on the album.

Rush has always been a prolific and clever songwriter. The songs he penned for Porcupine Meat such as “Dress Too Short,” “I Don’t Want Nobody Hanging Around,” “Me, Myself And I,” “Nighttime Gardener,” “It’s Your Move,” and the title selection, all equal or rival his best material. “Funk o’ de Funk” delivers exactly what the title suggests and what Rush has always done the best, which is putting the funk into the blues. While “Got Me Accused” is inspired by events from Rush’s own life, the lyrics tell an all-too-familiar tale about the rampant racial injustice that afflicts our society. Producer Billington and his wife Johnette Downing (the well known New Orleans songwriter and children’s musician) co-wrote a couple of fine selections, “Catfish Stew” and “Snake In The Grass.”

Bobby Rush is the greatest bluesman currently performing. Porcupine Meat is a testament to his brilliance, which presents him at his very best, and doesn’t try to be anything that he is not. “I just try to record good music and stories,” he humbly states.  With this recording, he has more than accomplished his goal, and has produced one of the finest contemporary blues albums in recent times.

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Liner Notes

TECH COPY (CD Booklet)                           street date: 09/16/2016

ARTIST: Bobby Rush

TITLE: Porcupine Meat

LABEL: Rounder

UPC: 888072006164

1166100065

Produced by Scott Billington                                                     

Recorded and Mixed by Steve Reynolds

Recorded and Mixed at The Parlor Recording Studio, New Orleans, Louisiana, March-May, 2016

Assistant Engineers: Nick Guttman and Matt Grondin

Additional Recording at The Rhythm Shack, New Orleans, LA

Assistant Engineer: Jake Eckert

Pre-mixing and editing at NOCCA Studio, and at Skoringwerks, New Orleans, LA

Mixed to ½” analog tape on an Ampex ATR-102 recorder

Mastered by Paul Blakemore at CMG Mastering

Musical Director: Vasti Jackson

Horns Arranged by Jeff Albert

 

All songs written by Bobby Rush, Carquit Music (BMI) except:

“Got Me Accused” written by Bobby Rush and Scott Billington, Carquit Music (BMI) /

Black Skillet Music (BMI)

“Snake in the Grass” and “Catfish Stew” written by Bobby Rush, Scott Billington and

Johnette Downing, Carquit Music (BMI) / Black Skillet Music (BMI) / Wiggle Worm

Records (ASCAP)

 

Photography: Rick Olivier

Art Direction: Carrie Smith

Package Design: Jimmy Hole

Thanks to Dave Clements and the Circle Bar

 

Dave Alvin appears courtesy of Yep Roc Records (tbc)

                                   

Thanks to Jeff DeLia, Scott Billington, Steve Reynolds, Johnette Downing, Matt Grondin, Jake Eckert, Bill Bentley, Roy Weisman, Rachel Iverson, Mike Gillespie, John Virant, Liza Levy, Adam Jones, Regina Joskow, Mary Hogan, John Burk, Kim Bilbrew, Glenn Dicker, Nancy Sefton, Thirty Tigers and Cary Baker. 

Extra special thanks to all of the deejays and media people who have supported my music and records through the years, and who continue to support me.

 

Management: Jeff DeLia, 72 Music Management, 72musicmanagement.com

bobbyrushbluesman.com

rounder.com

℗ & © 2016 Rounder Records, a division of Concord Music Group, Inc., 100 N. Crescent Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws. Printed in the U.S.A. 1166100065

 

  1.   I Don’t Want Nobody Hanging Around (4:54)

Bobby Rush – vocals, harmonica

Vasti Jackson − guitar

Shane Theriot − electric and acoustic guitars

David Torkanowsky − Hammond B-3 organ, Hohner D-6 clavinet

Kirk Joseph − sousaphone

Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander − drums

Barney Floyd − trumpet

Jeff Albert − trombone

Jeff Watkins − tenor saxophone

Charles “Chucky C” Elam, III and Cornell Williams − background vocals

 

  2.   Porcupine Meat featuring Vasti Jackson (4:14)

Bobby Rush – vocals, harmonica

Vasti Jackson – guitar, guitar solo

Shane Theriot − guitar

David Torkanowsky − Fender Rhodes piano

Cornell Williams – bass, background vocals

Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander − drums

Jeff Albert − trombone

Jeff Watkins − tenor saxophone

Barney Floyd − trumpet

Charles “Chucky C” Elam, III – background vocals

 

  3.   Got Me Accused (7:01)

Bobby Rush − vocals, harmonica

Vasti Jackson − guitar

Shane Theriot − guitar

David Torkanowsky − Fender Rhodes piano

Kirk Joseph − sousaphone

Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander − drums

 

  4.   Snake in the Grass (4:14)

Bobby Rush − vocals, harmonica

Vasti Jackson − guitar

Shane Theriot − electric and acoustic guitars

David Torkanowsky − Fender Rhodes piano

Cornell Williams − bass and backing vocal

Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander − drums

Johnette Downing and Charles “Chucky C” Elam, III − backing vocals

 

  5.   Funk o’ de Funk (4:53)

Bobby Rush − vocals, harmonica

Vasti Jackson − guitar

Shane Theriot − guitar

David Torkanowsky − Wurlitzer piano, Hammond B-3 organ

Kirk Joseph − sousaphone

Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander − drums

Barney Floyd − trumpet

Jeff Albert − trombone

Khari Allen Lee − alto saxophone

Jeff Watkins − tenor saxophone

Roger Lewis − baritone saxophone

Johnette Downing, Charles “Chuckie C” Elam, III and Cornell Williams − backing vocals

 

  6.   Me, Myself and I featuring Joe Bonamassa (5:34)

Bobby Rush − vocals

Joe Bonamassa − guitar solo

Vasti Jackson − guitar

Shane Theriot − guitar

David Torkanowsky − Wurlitzer piano, Hammond B-3 organ

Cornell Williams − bass

Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander − drums

Jeff Albert − trombone

Barney Floyd − flugelhorn

 

  7.   Catfish Stew (4:03)

Bobby Rush − vocals, harmonica

Vasti Jackson − guitar

Shane Theriot − electric and acoustic guitars

David Torkanowsky − Fender Rhodes piano

Kirk Joseph − sousaphone

Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander − drums

Barney Floyd − trumpet

Jeff Albert − trombone

Khari Allen Lee − alto saxophone

Jeff Watkins − tenor saxophone

Roger Lewis − baritone saxophone

 

  8.   It’s Your Move featuring Dave Alvin (4:20)

Bobby Rush − vocals

Dave Alvin − guitar solo

Vasti Jackson − guitar

Shane Theriot − guitar

David Torkanowsky − Wurlitzer piano

Kirk Joseph – sousaphone

Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander − drums

 

  9.   Nighttime Gardener featuring Keb’ Mo’ (4:06)

Bobby Rush − vocals, harmonica

Keb’ Mo’ – guitar, slide guitar solo

Vasti Jackson – guitars

Shane Theriot – guitar

David Torkanowsky – Hammond B-3 organ

Cornell Williams – bass

Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander – drums

 

10.   I Think Your Dress Is Too Short (4:20)

Bobby Rush – vocals

Vasti Jackson – guitar

Shane Theriot – guitar

David Torkanowsky – Wurlitzer piano

Cornell Williams – bass

Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander – drums

Jeff Albert – trombone

Jeff Watkins – tenor saxophone

Barney Floyd – trumpet

 

11.   Standing on Shaky Ground (4:54)

Bobby Rush – vocals

Vasti Jackson – guitar

Shane Theriot  –guitar

David Torkanowsky – Wurlitzer piano

Cornell Williams – bass, background vocals

Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander – drums

Scott Billington – percussion

Barney Floyd – trumpet

Jeff Albert – trombone

Khari Allen Lee – alto saxophone and solo

Jeff Watkins – tenor saxophone

Roger Lewis – baritone saxophone

Charles “Chucky C” Elam, III – background vocals

 

 

12.   I’m Tired (Tangle Eye Mix) (4:21)

Bobby Rush – vocals, harmonica

Vasti Jackson – guitar

Cornell Williams – bass

Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander – drums