"Don't you cry, baby." Hopeful. The guitar stings a long, lean note, bending upwards then sharply down. "Please dry your eyes." Reassuring. The guitar scampers across the lower register with a tone of solace. "Dry your eyes, pretty mama." Vocal melisma on the word "eyes." "And please don't you cry." Resigned. The guitar tries a couple of light interjections as the organ pounds the turnaround.
This is one verse of "Don't You Cry," one song from Bobby Rush's brand new album, the 20th of his career, "Down in Louisiana." While most of the record is more upbeat, and often more funky, "Don't You Cry" is typical of its attention to detail, of Rush's ability to combine vocal, guitar and harmonica with the rest of his band in a carefully crafted, highly developed manipulation of emotions. Rush tackles Cajun-inspired rhythms, frantically exhilarating dance styles, deep, home-brewed blues, and even a bit of spirituals, maneuvering each expertly with the crack musicians he's assembled.
Long time listeners of Papa Ray's "Soul Selector" program on 88.1 KDHX have almost certainly encountered Bobby Rush before. He's been the master of a bawdy, tough, sparse blues approach which has put his performance personality front and center for over 30 years. With nothing further to prove doing what he's always done, Rush shows here that he could thrive in any blues or R&B setting you could name. He's not showing off, either.
Though his talents as a vocalist/guitarist/harpist are all fully on display, in all cases, they are at the service of the impeccable songs he wrote. "Down in Louisiana" is one heck of an enjoyable record from an artist who has, at the age of 72, only begun to show us what else he can do.
"Down in Louisiana" will be released on February 19, 2013 on the Deep Rush Visuals label.