Otis Rush

I Can't Quit the Blues

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Singer-guitarist Rush long ago grabbed the mantle from Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf to become one of the key second-generation electric bluesmen, emerging from Chicago in the mid-'50s with a distinctive West Side sound which was characterized by its gospel infusions, minor-key tinges, dramatic string bends, and atmospheric chord resolutions. If he's not spoken of in the same light as B.B. King, it's because of his unpredictability and his generally uncanny nature. But he turned out to arguably be a more pervasive influence on the top rock guitarists of that genre's classic era than any of his peers. With his bracing tenor voice and unorthodox left-hand guitar style (with the instrument strung upside down), he became remarkable for his soulful, slow-grooving blues, which were punctuated by nimble arpeggio guitar runs and intensity-building, low-string thrums. Rush's career has been dogged by bad luck, underappreciation, and personal and health problems, but a resurgence of interest in his music makes it high time for another compilation. (Unfortunately, Rush's performing prowess was undercut by a stroke in 2004.) I Can't Quit the Blues leans heavily on the early Cobra Records material, but you can also enjoy his remarkable Chess Records work on So Many Roads. Unfortunately, this compilation does not address his remarkable (and under-heralded) later work. This is a good set for someone just discovering the guitarist who went on to influence people such as Jeff Beck, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Eric Clapton -- now themselves elder music statesmen.

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