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High Voltage at the High Watt

Bobby Rush and Bonnie Bishop at AMAs in Nashville

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Certainly among the most seasoned professionals at Americana Fest–or anywhere else for that matter–Bobby Rush could give youngsters very important lessons in crafting a show. Rush’s incredibly-high energy band played a number to introduce the master, who then proceeded to sing, dance and levitate for 45 minutes, raising his audience up along with him like a flood tide. If newcomers to the music business want an education in stagecraft, get your PhD from Bobby Rush. Blues, funk, a little rap and great musicianship lie at the core of Rush’s music, and if that’s not Americana without a banjo, I don’t know what is.

Before the show, I chatted with Rush’s able publicist and co-producer of Rush’s recent box set, Cary Baker, Rush’s Manager Jeff DeLia, and an up-and-coming young artist, (Ms.) Charlie Faye, who looked to be about 20. When I asked DeLia whether Bobby would have any girls with him, Faye, a former backup singer herself, said, “Like backup singers?” “Not exactly,” we told her. Bobby’s dancin’ duo, Erickia Henderson and Loretta Wilson (aka Mizz Lowe) provided the only semi-plausible excuse to take your eyes off Rush for even a second, although the term “back up” did fit the action from time to time. Thank the Good Lord for Bobby Rush.

Elmore photographer Arnie Goodman recommended Bonnie Bishop, having seen her open for former Black Crowes bro Rich Robinson, and Goodman’s good eye and good ears told the truth: Bishop’s the real deal. Landing somewhere in the neighborhood of Bonnie Raitt (who took home a Grammy in part thanks to Bishop’s songwriting) and Dusty Springfield, with a little detour to Janis Joplin’s side of the street, Bishop blew the growing crowd away, and ended her powerful set with “Ain’t Who I Was,” and the lyric “Lord, I’m finally proud of who I am now, Thank God it ain’t who I was.” I don’t know who she was before, but today, she’s a woman going places.

–Suzanne Cadgène

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