The career of Otis Rush has been on of the most varied and emotionally wrenching in all of modern blues. Rush's early sides for Cobra ("Double Trouble," "All Your Love") had a tormented intensity that recalled the poetic writhings of Robert Johnson; his later output was somewhat less exciting, but at his best ("So Many Roads, So Many Trains"), his quavering vocals and red-hot leads still combined to create an emotionalism--laced with a gripping psychic terror--that few others have been able to approximate. Unfortunately, Rush has developed a reputation for unreliability--he can take a room to undreamed-of heights, but if the spark doesn't ignite his show can be directionless and unsatisfying. These days he's fronting a band capable of carrying him through, and the last couple of times I've seen him he's been in good spirits. Rush at his best can bring more bluesiness to a Texas shuffle or a juke-joint barn burner than many bluesmen bring to a slow moan, and his minor-key testimonials to desolation and despair are among the blues' most riveting experiences. Tonight and Saturday, B.L.U.E.S. Etcetera, 1124 W. Belmont, 525-8989.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Fraher.