When: Fri., Nov. 25, 9 p.m. 2016
With his latest CD, Porcupine Meat (Rounder), which has been garnering Grammy buzz of late, Bobby Rush seems determined to cross over into “mainstream” white listenership while retaining the core fan base he’s nurtured for more than 60 years. As usual the 83-year-old “funk folklorist” delivers tales of thwarted libido, sexual gamesmanship, and other dispatches from the front lines of erotic combat with humor and self-deprecating irony. But producer Scott Billington’s in-studio aesthetic—featuring live instruments and tighter soul- and funk-based arrangements—brings a newfound gravitas to even Rush’s most ribald storytelling, and the effect is heightened when the bluesman tackles more substantial themes. “I’m Tired,” a reprise from his 2007 LP Raw, is a bleak portrayal of life in poverty, harshened by Rush’s gut-churning vocals and harp wails, while “Got Me Accused” is about a falsely accused man awaiting trial (“What kind of justice can this be . . . Seems like my life just don’t matter at all now”). On those songs especially Billington’s crisp production and the crew of studio aces create an atmosphere as haunting as—and haunted by—Rush’s lyrics and harp work.