Bishop’s 2008 album, The Blues Roll On, was a landmark of sorts, as he surrounded himself with elder statesmen like B.B. King and James Cotton, as well as young guns like Derek Trucks and the Homemade Jamz Blues Band. His follow-up marks 45 years since his appearance on the self-titled debut of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band – an album that turned countless listeners onto the blues.
As the title implies, he lets his 1959 stereo Gibson ES-345, nicknamed “Red Dog,” do much of the talking, in more ways than one. The opening title track is a talking blues in the tradition of “Drunk Again” (from Butter’s In My Own Dream) and “Sweet Potato” (from Bishop’s ’69 solo debut), but with less comedy and more autobiography. And when he prompts it to, “Speak, Red Dog,” it howls – thanks to Bishop’s slide.
Elsewhere, Bishop splits vocal duties with John Nemeth (on “Neighbor, Neighbor,” “Get Your Hand Out Of My Pocket,” and a beautiful reading, vocally and by Bishop’s slide, of Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers To Cross”), while sharing chores with guitarists Tommy Castro, Kid Andersen, Roy Gaines, and Ronnie Baker Brooks, not to mention veteran instrumentalists Terry Hanck (sax) and Buckwheat Zydeco (accordion).
The set features three instrumentals: the distorted (and aptly titled) “Barbecue Boogie,” a doo-wop medley of “In The Still Of The Night” and “Maybe,” and the hundred-year-old gospel classic “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” – the latter two, beautiful slide showcases.
Bishop calls his singing voice “limited,” but he delivers a fine, expressive rendition of Leroy Carr’s “Midnight Hour Blues.” And with his guitar the sole backing on the spoken/sung “Clean Livin’,” he makes a strong case (as he did on Blues Rolls On’s “Oklahoma”) for an entirely solo release.
This article originally appeared in VG’s Sept. ’10 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.