Blues singer Bobby Rush entertains at Saratoga Springs Caffe Lena

Bobby Rush won the title “King of the Chitlin Circuit” for his raunchy, hard-hitting funk and blues shows on the network of black-owned and operated clubs in the South and Midwest in the 1960s and 1970s. his career goes back further than that, to 1951, recording sessions and live shows with Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry and pre-mainstream celebrity BB King to name a few.

Despite a career that dates back more than 70 years, it wasn’t until the 2000s that Rush connected with a wider (whiter) audience. In 2017, he won a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album for the full band “Porcupine Meat” and repeated the feat in 2021 with the acoustic solo “Rawer than Raw.”

Rush, 88, is the last of his generation of blues singers still alive, let alone enjoying increased success, and on Thursday night he was at Caffe Lena for a solo acoustic set. For 85 minutes, Rush entertained the 50 or so attendees with autobiographical stories and background on his career, jokes and his offbeat take on country blues.

As a musician, Rush displays a mastery of form. Maintaining a primitive, steady rhythm with his foot, he alternated between sitting and playing acoustic guitar and standing to play mouth harp during his performance. On both instruments his playing was fluent and smooth, showing no diminishment at his age. His voice was strong, but more importantly, Rush displayed a quick wit and a ribald sense of humor that dispels the idea that the blues is primarily a genre for expressing sadness and stories of bad luck. .

After offering detailed and comedic advice on sex and relationships to two married couples in their sixties seated in front of the stage, Rush performed “I Got 3 Problems”, a harmonica and vocal lament on “problems with my wife”. , my girlfriend and my wife. Before that, he offered a pair of surreal marital infidelity stories, “Cabbage Head Blues” and “Garbage Man”, which had Rush and audiences cracking up in the end.

Midway through his set, Rush told a story about how he had a guitar as a child in the 1930s that he kept hidden that would bother his preacher father. Instead, her father played her the beginning of an obscene limerick. It served as the inspiration and transition to Rush’s most famous song, the very funky (even as a one-man acoustic track) and non-poultry “Chicken Head” and “Bowlegged Woman, Knock-Kneed Man”.

For his penultimate song, Rush delivered a solid rendition of the highly euphemistic “Night Fishin'”. But immediately before that, he offered a few thoughts that summed up his evening and the evening well.

“I’m a musician, but it’s about entertainment,” he said. “I’m here to entertain you.”

Based on the fact that he sold the supply of autobiographies and dozens of CDs he brought with him and the way people lined up for Rush to sign them, it’s safe to say that the audience was very entertained.

Bobby Rush

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Caffe Lena, 47 Phila Street, Saratoga Springs

Length: 85 minutes

Strong points: “Garbage Man”, “Cabbage Head Blues”, “Night Fishing”

The crowd: Half full and enthusiastic throughout the set.


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