Review: Elvin Bishop – Red Dog Speaks

Posted on: Saturday, Jul 31, 2010

Elvin Bishop

“Red Dog Speaks”
(Delta Groove Music – DGPCD138)

Slide master Elvin Bishop’s second release for Delta Groove Music, following the star-studded “The Blues Rolls On” in 2008, sees the veteran paying homage to his trustee ’59 Gibson Stereo ES 345 guitar, “Red Dog”, with the 11 tracks on offer being very varied, and with some stellar guest names on board again.

Bishop was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but when arriving at the University of Chicago in 1959, he met a like-minded soul in the form of Paul Butterfield, and together they began to visit the blues clubs of the South Side – they absorbed the music of the legends such as Muddy Waters, Little Walter and Howlin’ Wolf, and in 1963 the Butterfield Blues Band was formed, and the rest is history . . .

Elvin Bishop released four albums on Epic, and then joined Capricorn Records, and had a major chart hit with “Fooled Around And Fell In Love” in 1976. He returned to pure blues in 1988 when joining Alligator and has been a ‘road warrior’ ever since . . . now clocking up some 45 years of playing the blues.

The album kicks off with “Red Dog Speaks”, a part-spoken slow blues, basically telling the story of the afore-mentioned guitar, with trademark slide, and some rolling piano from Bob Welsh, and the nice ‘in the pocket’ rhythm section of Ruth Davies (bass) and June Core (drums), who feature on most tracks. A rousing “Neighbor, Neighbor” takes the pace up, with guest vocal from the fast-rising John Nemeth, with the great Norwegian guitarist, Kid Andersen, on board for the wry “Fat And Sassy”.

Bishop shows his playing is not just about his slide work on the instrumental “Barbecue Boogie”, with Welsh’s piano again standing out; Nemeth returns to star on a really soulful take on Jimmy Cliff’s classic “Many Rivers To Cross”, with some snaky slide from Elvin Bishop – a definite highlight here! “Blues Cruise” was recorded off the coast of Mexico on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise in 2009, where the guests are name-checked and solo, including Tommy Castro, Ronnie Baker Brooks . . . and best of all, Buckwheat Zydeco” with some fine accordion . . . also ‘on  board’ are John Nemeth and Roy Gaines.

The pace is taken down for the “Doo-Wop Medley”, a mix of “In The Still Of The Night” and “Maybe”, dominated by Elvin Bishop’s slide, and the horns of Ed Earley (trombone) and Snakebite (tenor sax); Otis Spann’s “Get Your Hand Out Of My Pocket” sees Nemeth on both vocals and harmonica, with more sterling work from Bob Welsh, and rub-board from J.C. Carrier. The gospel-flavoured traditional song “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” is a delight, some sweet guitar and a guest spot from Terry Hanck on tenor sax.

The 2:40 of “Clean Living” is just fabulous . . . just Bishop’s voice, stomping foot and dirty slide tone . . . and a lyric wondering how with the blues lifestyle he is still around! The album ends with a sweet take on Leroy Carr’s “Midnight Hour Blues”, complete with lovely guitar solo . . . a fitting end to a very fine release, and as ever with Delta Groove output, a marvellous sounding record!


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