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Real Music - It’s a Rush - September 2016

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Real Music - It's a Rush - September 2016

by Robert Feuer

Bobby Rush, Emmet Ellis Jr. to his mother, is part of a lineup at the 40th Anniversary Russian River Blues Festival on Sept. 11 that promises to be the best in years. A member of the Blues Hall of Fame, Rush has over 60 years on the Chitlin’ Circuit, theaters and clubs featuring black entertainers. He claimed his first gold record in 1971, later adding three Grammy nominations and ten Blues Music Awards. Perhaps his most impressive accomplishment is being the first blues artist to play at the Great Wall of China.

At age 82, Rush’s funky/funny repertoire of over 300 songs includes such titles as “Chicken Heads,” “Porcupine Meat,” and “Hen Pecked.” 

Rush built his first guitar as a youth in Homer, La., by attaching the top wire of a broom to a wall and fretting it with a bottle. As an underage teenager, he played in juke joints, passing as older by wearing a fake moustache. At one such venue, named Jackrabbit, his band featured blues superstar Elmore James. During the mid-‘50s, Rush moved to Chicago, where he worked with Freddie King, Earl Hooker, and Luther Allison, and sat in with Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Willie Dixon, and Little Walter, before starting his own band in the ‘60s. 

Keb’ Mo’, aka Kevin Moore, has been recording since 1994, in a style that could be called folk/blues. He’s collaborated with Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Natalie Cole, and Lyle Lovett, and his compositions have been recorded by B.B. King, Joe Cocker, Buddy Guy, and Solomon Burke. 

Keb’ Mo’s resume includes three Grammys and 11 Blues Music Awards. He also wrote the theme song for the TV show, Mike and Molly, and is a newly appointed member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities

Jonny Lang, at 12, emerged from a Fargo, North Dakota farm background, to lead a Minneapolis band, Kid Jonny Lang and the Big Bang. Three years later, he rode a wave of teenage blues heroes to a successful debut record release. He won a Grammy in 2007. Now 35, his latest release, “Fight for My Soul,” is more personal and laid back, though still with plenty of driving guitar.

Moreland & Arbuckle, appearing on the Garden Stage, is the best thing to come out of Kansas since Dorothy. Their trio, whose website describes their music as “gritty blues and roots rock from the heartland,” includes guitar, harmonica, and drums. 

Aaron Moreland and Dustin Arbuckle met at an open mic in their hometown Wichita, in 2001. Major influences are Son House and Hound Dog Taylor. In 2008, they played for the troops in Iraq for ten days.

The Brazilian Igor Prado Band, featuring long-time bluesman, Wee Willie Walker, follows Moreland & Arbuckle on the Garden Stage

Nikki Hill, a Carolina gal, described as a blues shouter with elements of soul and rock n’ roll, opens on the Main Stage. 

With two alternating settings, the music, like the river and the beer, flows all day.

Photo by Rick Oliver