Otis Rush never crossed over to rock star level success the way his former compatriot from Chicago's West Side, Buddy Guy, managed to do, but Rush's best work has been every bit as influential. With his raw, smoky tone, powerful string bends, and smoldering intensity, Rush has been cited as a key influence by guitarists such as Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, and Billy Gibbons, and has always been rated highly by blues enthusiasts as one of the best players the Windy City ever produced. Blues scholars will tell you that Rush's best and most respected work was the series of singles he recorded for Chicago-based Cobra Records between 1956 and 1958; West Chicago Blues includes all 16 tracks from Rush's Cobra 45s, as well as six later sides Rush cut for Chess Records. Featuring backing from Willie Dixon, Ike Turner, Little Walter, and other giants of the Chicago blues community, the Cobra sides are an object lesson in how a musician can do more with less; other players may have been flashier, but the concise strength of Rush's playing on these sides, as well as the casual authority of his vocals, adds a power to the music that makes even the simplest songs stick in the memory long after they're done (and Dixon's arrangements give the recordings a full, compelling sound). If the Chess recordings that close out this package aren't quite as strong, they find Rush in solid form, and if you're looking for an introduction to an underappreciated icon of American blues, West Chicago Blues is a superb starting point.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming