Bobby Rush

Down in Louisiana

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Bobby Rush has been cranking out albums cut from the same cloth for so long that it's fair to ask what's the difference with 2013's Down in Louisiana. As it turns out, the answer is plenty. Departing from his signature slicked-back soul-blues, Rush strips his band down to the basics -- guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, accentuated with a little accordion on occasion -- abandoning the horns and getting down and dirty, a shift that's evident even on his standard glad-handing charmers like "I Ain't the One." Too often, that glossy veneer and showboating obscured Rush's considerable skills as a guitarist and vocalist, so the switch on Down in Louisiana does him some considerable favors. Down in Louisiana packs a gut-level punch that feels even more bracing after years, even decades, of glossy grooves, so this is a sheer sonic pleasure, but what makes the record really work is that Rush doesn't abandon his signatures. He still can't resist a dirty joke ("Bowlegged Woman"), he still grinds out funky vamps like "Rock This House" -- he's not digging deep, he's still all about having a very, very good time. Thing of it is, by getting a little dirt underneath his fingernails, he's wound up with a record that will not only please his legions of fans, but an album that will convince doubters that this 77-year-old bluesman is something of a modern-day blues legend.

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