- Fannie Mae
- Don't Let The Bossman Get You Down
- Murder In The First Degree
- Kissing In The Dark
- My Whiskey Head Buddies
- Stepping Up In Class
- You Got To Rock `Em
- Come On In This House
- Soul Food
- Rollin' With My Blues
- Devil's Slide
- Just Your Fool
This is the best album Elvin Bishop has been a part of since The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw, from 1967, his last work with the groundbreaking Paul Butterfield Blues Band. That record was a departure from the experimental dual-guitar improvisations that Bishop and Mike Bloomfield developed in the mid-Sixties, and it inadvertently spawned the basic format of Seventies Southern rock in the process. Just as many other players were starting to employ techniques he had fashioned, Bishop reverted to a more traditional blues format, contrasting his playing with a horn section and a steady rhythm pattern.
The irony of Bishop's career is that when he left the Butterfield band, he was signed by the trademark Southern-rock company, Capricorn Records. As one of the few artists on that label not dedicated to slavishly imitating the Allman Brothers' sound, Bishop enjoyed great success during the Seventies, but with the demise of the label Bishop's career declined. Aside from a European album never released in the United States, Bishop's sole output in the past decade was the 1988 set Big Fun.
Bossman is a triumphant return, a rocking tour de force of blues and R&B that balances updated interpretations of classic songs with originals – all delivered by Bishop with unflagging enthusiasm and wit. His droll, conversational singing carries the narrative while his solos – mixtures of fat slide figures and razor-edged single-line bursts – strike a variety of tones against imaginative arrangements and great execution from his band.
In its pacing, Bossman approximates a live performance. Bishop starts with the raucous blues classic "Fannie Mae," which is powered by his careening Elmore James-style slide playing. Then he works through the stately, anthemic buildup of the title track and the midtempo "Murder in the First Degree" before hitting the first of several climaxes with a swinging rendition of Memphis Minnie's "Kissing in the Dark," which is highlighted by Bishop's jagged fuzz-tone guitar.
"My Whiskey Head Buddies" brings it back down for a comic interlude, while "Stepping Up in Class" twists the intensity tighter again. "You Got to Rock 'Em" contrasts a stinging guitar riff with a swelling brass figure while Bishop bewails the perils of the music business like a modern Screamin' Jay Hawkins. "Come On in This House," a trademark slow-blues showcase, is followed by the good-time romp "Soul Food," which peaks with a spectacular T-Bone Walker-inspired solo.
Bishop fires off guitar quotes in "Rollin' With My Blues," in which he raps out a catalog of his favorite blues players. "Devil's Slide" is a gorgeous instrumental constructed around a full-throated slide excursion set against a dramatic horn chart. "Just Your Fool" wraps it up with another spirited vamp topped off with high-energy soloing. When it ends, you feel like yelling for an encore.
Great albums have an inner logic that makes you want to hear the songs in sequence, as if they were movements in a suite. Don't Let the Bossman Get You Down is a great album. (RS 605)