Otis Rush is one of those great Chicago blues artists who tour
infrequently, so there are generally two ways to hear his music. Either make frequent
trips to the Windy City, or savor every recorded note that comes out. So, all you Otis
Rush fans, you're in for a treat with his latest CD.
Any Place I'm Going was recorded in Memphis and produced by the legendary Willie Mitchell (no relation, of course, to this reviewer). This trip down south gives Rush's music a little more soulful edge than the standard West Side Chicago heavy blues sound. The horns are moved further up in the mix and there's a heavier use of background vocalists, all to good measure. A remake of Rush's classic "Keep On Loving Me Baby," which he first recorded 40+ years ago for Cobra Records, is a bit more polished sounding, but the same grit and intensity of the original are still there. It's a nice marriage.
There is no one --- I repeat, absolutely no one --- in blues history capable of performing an intense slow minor blues like Otis Rush. On this CD he takes Clay Hammond's "Part Time Love" to another level, with the vocals harkening back to the fervor of his own blues classic "Double Trouble." Every aspiring blues singer should listen to this song over and over to try to figure out how it's done. Rush's guitar work here is an exercise in simplicity and efficiency; he says more in just a few notes than most players get out in a complete song. Another great slow blues on which Rush excels vocally is "Looking Back."
Rush puts aside his usual somber manner for Nappy Brown's suggestive "The Right Time." Rush is more restrained than most who have recorded this song, preferring to let his vocals and guitar get the point across.
"Any Place I'm Going (Beats Any Place I've Been)" is an original that, with its calypso beat and "feel good" sound, is drastically different than the customary Rush material.
Sam Cooke's "Laughin' and Clownin'" is given a bluesier edge than the original, while Lester Snell contributes very nice gospel-style piano to the tune. Rush then keeps on the soulful side with a version of Marvin Gaye's "Pride and Joy," showing us that he could have been a darn good soul singer had he chosen that career path.
The disk closes with a seven-minute version of Little Milton's "Walking The Back Streets and Crying." Fantastic!
Any Place I'm Going gives you an idea of how Rush might have sounded had he wound up on Stax Records in the 60s or 70s. Like Albert King, he would have made some very powerful blues recordings. Better late than never.
- Bill Mitchell
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