Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Blues Roll On reviewed by David Stine

The Blues Roll On
Elvin Bishop
Delta Groove Music, Inc.
12 tracks

What’s not to like about Elvin Bishop, the “party ‘til the cows come home” guitarist and band leader with a 45 year career? I admit to being a big fan clear back to the Butterfield days when he stood in the shadow of Mike Bloomfield. I was a little skeptical when I realized that this initial Delta Groove disc was one of those filled with “guests.” My experience has been that these outings are either train wrecks, atypical of the artist or uneven showoff sessions that lose their appeal after a single play. Guests in this case include John Nemeth, Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, B.B. King, James Cotton, Angela Strehli, George Thorogood, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Tommy Castro, and others. The disc begins with the title cut, “The Blues Roll On” which features Kim Wilson and Warren Haynes and the rough edged guitar tone Bishop used on his last two Blind Pig recordings. I wasn’t blown away at first, but discovered quickly that there were little gems here and there throughout the disc and that it IS, indeed, an Elvin Bishop album, not a collage of mixed delivery. For me, the gems are the retooled “Struttin’ My Stuff” with Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes. Updated lyrics but the same solid groove, make this not a rehash, but a nice revisit to classic Bishop. Also high on my list are “Black Girl” with R.C. Carrier and Andre Theirry a funky, accordion-driven, raw blues tune. Bishop and Thorogood’s reading of “Send You Back To Georgia” is a Houndog Taylor-eque romp that may make listeners want to check out latter-day Thorogood. Another highlight for me was “Oklahoma” featuring solo Bishop: just electric guitar and floor stomp--who needs a band? The intro to Roy Milton’s “Keep A Dollar In Your Pocket” has Bishop “interviewing” B,B. King before they slide into the song. This is a bit contrived and doesn’t add much, but at the song’s close Bishop asks “Bee” if he’s ever called himself the “king of the blues.” The answer is revealing. Are there any bad, forgettable, or “dogs” on this CD? Not for me. Bishop, with the Homemade Jamz Band, does a knockout version of Junior Well’s “Come On In This House.” “Look On Yonder’s Wall” was recorded live from the 2007 (Pacific) Blues Cruise and features guitar tradeoffs from Bishop, Ronnie Baker Brooks, and Tommy Castro and the sound quality is excellent--it doesn‘t stick out as “live” at all. The disc ends‘ with a cover of Jimmy Reed‘s “Honest I Do.” Done as an instrumental, this is the only tune I was disappointed with: with all the vocalists available, why make it an instrumental? .Why not Nemeth with Strehli harmonizing? A sure bet, but I’m not Randy Chortoff, whose production decisions I’ve questioned before. This is a good all around CD; a fine addition the your Elvin Bishop collection; an even outing featuring guests who know how to aid the delivery of a song without taking over and making it about them and not it. Elvin Bishop has his name on it but he, like the others, keeps the focus on the music. At just a little over 45 minutes for 12 songs, there’s not a lot of show off time here.

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