Bobby Rush is on a tear. Approaching his 90th birthday this November, the singer-songwriter-guitarist is as busy and productive as ever. In the first two decades of this century, Rush has released some 16 albums and a career-spanning box set (Chicken Heads: A 50-year History). The two-time Grammy Award winner and multiple Blues Music Award recipient has been indicted into the Blues Hall of Fame, the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame, the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame and probably some others we’ve missed.
He remains a dynamic live performer, too, with live dates both in the U.S. and at international festivals in Europe and beyond; by mid 2023 his concert schedule was already booked well into ‘24. There’s no stopping the man. And that’s a very good thing.
Rush’s latest release is All My Love for You. Consistent with other entries in his catalog, this new set showcases the fun, mischief and musical vision of this master. Keeping the instrumental lineup lean, he’s joined by Dexter Allen on bass and guitar plus and Joey Robinson and drums and keys. Rush, of course, plays guitar and harmonica, writes all the music and provides all of the vocals.
Bobby Rush’s good-natured approach to lyrics informs “I’m Free,” a laid back, funky and autobiographical tune that emphasizes his glass-half-full approach to life’s challenges. The slinky boogie-woogie of “Running In and Out” has a hypnotic riff and some slyly amorous lyrics. “I Want To” has an understated instrumental arrangement that’s the aural equivalent of a cocky stroll down an urban sidewalk. Rush’s vocal and lyrics – concerning his interest in playing a game of what he calls “push and pull” – double down on that vibe.
Popular music has had many songs titled “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show” (or similar words to that effect). Jump blues legend Stick McGhee may have been the first to use the phrase on a recording; girl group Honey Cone scored big in 1970 with a similarly-titled r&b hit. And now in 2023, Bobby Rush revives the “answer record” with “One Monkey Can Stop a Show.” A tight horn chart punctuates the arrangement as Rush spins out examples to support his assertion.
The yearning “I Can’t Stand It” carves a deep groove, smoky and sensual. Rush’s playful sense of humor informs the start-and-stop blues of “TV Mama.” He gets more serious for the love-song blues of “I’ll Do Anything for You.” Rush likes to name-check himself in his songs, and does just that on “I’m the One,” in which he sets himself apart from other well-known names while still according them due respect.
The well-earned braggadocio that’s a component of much of Rush’s material surfaces yet again on “You’re Gonna Need a Man Like Me.” And the uptempo “I Got a Proposition for You” – you can already guess what he’s singing about here – underscores his argument, if anyone needed further convincing.
Amorous adventures aside, when it comes to the blues, Bobby Rush wins over the listener simply by doing what he does best: being the great Bobby Rush. And on All My Love for You, he does just that.