Welcome To A Blast From The Past.
These articles are archives published online at BluesWax as The Ezine, we hope you enjoy reading them.
Originally Published December 7, 2000
By Don “T-Bone” Erickson
You know you’ve heard it before from people who don’t seem to “get” the Blues – “Oh, the Blues are so sad and depressing.” Think again, folks. When Elvin Bishop grabs hold of a Blues song, it’s party time! Ever since Bishop started his own band after leaving The Paul Butterfield Blues Band in the late ’60s, he has infused a good-time atmosphere in his music.
His latest album, That’s My Partner!, certainly typifies the Elvin Bishop approach, capturing him in a live performance. Except this time around, there’s twice the fun, as his old buddy, Little Smokey Smothers, is along for the ride. When Elvin enrolled in the University of Chicago in 1959, to be closer to his musical heroes, Smothers took him under his wing. Smokey, who played with the legendary Howlin’ Wolf for about three years starting in 1958, not only helped teach Bishop how to play guitar, but also gave his willing pupil invaluable lessons in how to be a Bluesman. Something that Elvin has learned quite well.
Smokey was the first to get together with Butterfield before Bishop took over (Michael Bloomfield was soon added). After Bishop split for the West Coast, Smokey pretty much quit music entirely, working construction jobs instead. He didn’t jump back into it again until the ’80s, playing with the Legendary Blues Band. It wasn’t until ’93 that Smothers released his first full-length album, with some help from Bishop. He has since been active and this new album clearly demonstrates that the old fire is burning bright. These two guys sure get a kick out of playing the Blues together. The camaraderie is obvious between each other, the fellow band members and the crowd, and is a huge part of this disc’s charm.
Bishop and Smothers split the vocal and guitar duties, while bantering back and forth throughout. The band includes another guitarist, excellent keyboard work, and some harmonica, along with the bass and drums. One of the finest aspects of this outing, though, is the outstanding horn arrangements. They add so much to the proceedings. After listening to the disc, I couldn’t believe that there was only a sax and trombone – it sounds so full.
The album starts out with the title cut, a humorous and funky autobiographical take on their friendship. The album just keeps the party rolling right through to the finish, where they do an updated version of one of Elvin’s biggest hits, “Travelin’ Shoes”. In between, there is plenty of simple, meat-and-potatoes musical fun.
Rolling Stone magazine couldn’t have given a better description of Bishop’s music – “a good-time romp…raucous Blues with high-energy soloing, mixtures of careening slide and razor-edged bursts, all delivered with unflagging enthusiasm and wit.”
‘Nuff said…highly recommended if you want to wake and shake things up!
Don “T-Bone” Erickson
About the Author: