Elvin Bishop

That's My Partner!

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Every now and again you get one of those discs that picks up a few threads that have long lain dormant for various reasons, and you are more than overjoyed that someone took the time to help make the reconnections that seem to make life richer. Little Smokey took the young -- and new to Chicago -- Elvin Bishop under his wing in the early '60s and taught the kid everything, from playing blues guitar to how to walk the walk. It is well-documented how Bishop's career took off when he hooked up with Paul Butterfield and Mike Bloomfield in the Butterfield Blues Band (setting the stage for all the other twin lead guitar bands such as the Allman Brothers Band that followed). Smokey remained in Chicago and virtually gave up trying to make a living playing music in favor of a job to support the family. With the kids grown, by the '80s he started playing again. In January 2000, the two hooked up again for three nights that would be recorded by Alligator. Maybe this was to say thank you for the early help; more likely -- judging by the playing -- it was a return of the early love between the two. It was more than worth the wait to hear the interplay of Elvin and Smokey, backed by a more-than-capable band (a nod to S.E. Willis on keyboards) that provides strong, solid support while letting the two stand to the forefront and play off each other. Bishop has always been known as a fun-loving musician; however, he takes his chops seriously, his playing is crisp, and -- as he shows here -- he is at his best when playing off an equal (listen to his signature "Travelin' Shoes"!). The joy of playing that deep-felt Chicago blues with an old friend and colleague and the chance for teacher and pupil to stand up and show off their licks and progress shine through here. The banter between the two helps to push the music along to greater heights. Just listen to this gutter-crawling version of Little Red Rooster. You know the Wolf would be proud.

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