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Bobby Rush - Standing the Test of Time

Sagebrush Productions, Inc

52 minute DVD

With a career that has spanned five decades, one would think that Bobby Rush would be a household name. He has had hit records like “Chicken Heads”, released in 1971. His salacious and ribald live shows, featuring a number of female shake dancers, have been the hit of blues festivals across the country for the last ten years. Yet most blues fans remain unfamiliar with Rush’s work.

Sagebrush is attempting to garner some more well-deserved attention for Rush with its latest DVD documentary. Interspersing live concert footage with interview segments, the Rush story is told from his birth in Homer, Louisiana in 1940 through the accolades and awards for his 2008 solo acoustic recording, Raw. A number of segments feature comments from some of Bobby’s fellow musicians like Lonnie Brooks, Eddie Clearwater and Bobby Blue Bland.

Rush tells about the first blues song he ever heard, played by his father. The song recounted the tale of a large woman falling down and her dress flying up to reveal all of her secrets. Rush admits that it was strange to hear his father playing the devil’s music, as his father was a practicing preacher. Rush later moved to Chicago and became a fixture on the Chicago blues scene. Originally working on guitar and bass, Rush later took up the harmonica after seeing the trunk of Little Walter’s car filled with cash and hearing how the harp player is the one who makes the money from Walter and Junior Wells. He also talks about a lesson in the value of entertaining that he received from Jimmy Reed. Rush also discusses his embracing the “chitlin’ circuit” down South, wanting to play for his people and not worrying about gaining the attention of white listeners.

There is no question that Rush is a dynamic live performer and you get a sense of his stage persona from the clips throughout the dvd. There isn’t one complete performance anywhere but viewers get a chance to see Rush on guitar, harp and singing his sexually suggestive material with help from his dancers. There is also footage from Rush’s induction ceremony to the Blues Hall of Fame. Another telling moment is the clip with Bobby’s current minister, who relishes praise on Rush while side-stepping Bobby’s profession.

It is difficult to summarize such a lengthy career in fifty minutes. This release does give you a closer look at Bobby Rush, the human being and the entertainer. He comes across as a warm, generous man who can tell a good story and has plenty of them to tell. Adding some complete performance segments would have made this a stronger feature but by the end of the dvd, you will agree that Rush deserves all of the attention and awards he has received in recent years.

Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL.

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