Bobby Rush

Raw

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Just as the title implies, Raw is Bobby Rush at his most elemental: a man, his acoustic guitar, and his foot stamping out a beat on an amplified board. A little harmonica now and then, and a Dobro played with a bottleneck slide on the rollicking "Glad to Get You Back," but that's it for ornamentation. Although most of 13 songs are Rush originals, he also essays three standards, Larry Williams' early rock classic "Boney Maroney," Muddy Waters' "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl," and -- fearlessly -- "Howlin' Wolf" itself, which he slows down into a funereal dirge. Rush calls his music "folk funk," but in reality, Rush is the modern equivalent of the first country bluesmen, before the moves to Memphis and Chicago added full-band arrangements and electricity. But Rush isn't a hidebound traditionalist attempting to resurrect a past form for its own sake; Raw crackles with the energy of a musician who knows that he's working in the style that best suits his own personal gifts. This is a hundred times more listenable than yet another blues band plodding through a set of tenth-generation rewrites of "Sweet Home Chicago," and could well be the blues recording of 2007.

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