Mississippi roots artist Bobby Rush’s Down in Louisiana
(Deep Rush/ Thirty Tigers) has been nominated for a 2014 Grammy Award for Best Blues Album. Produced by Paul Brown
at his Ocean Soul Studios in Nashville, the disc revels in the grit, grind and soul that’s been the blues innovator’s trademark since the 1960s, when Rush stood shoulder to shoulder on the stages of Chicago with Muddy Waters
, Howlin' Wolf
, Little Walter
and other giants.
This is Rush’s second Grammy nomination. His disc Hoochie Man
was nominated for Best Contemporary Blues Album in 2001. The Grammy Awards will be presented on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles. “I’m so grateful and honored to receive this nomination at my age,” says Rush, who is 79 years old. “It means the world to me, because it shows that after all these years in this business, I’m still making music that my peers and listeners find exciting and worthy of this acknowledgement.”
Brown, who also co-produced Rush’s previous album, observes that “few artists bring the same level of fire to the studio as Bobby, which is amazing for somebody with such a long history. We inspired each other constantly while we were recording, so the sessions had an energy level that was electric and carried into the songs. This nomination is an affirmation of that.”
Rush still, indeed, has an energy level that fits his name. He’s a prolific songwriter and one of the most vital live performers in the blues, able to execute daredevil splits on stage with the finesse of a young James Brown
while singing and playing harmonica and guitar. Those talents have earned him multiple Blues Music Awards including Soul Blues Album of the Year, Acoustic Album of the Year, and, almost perennially, Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year.
Rush began absorbing the blues from his birth in Homer, Louisiana, on November 10, 1935. He learned guitar and harmonica and started playing juke joints in his teens, wearing a fake mustache so owners would think him old enough to perform in their clubs. In 1953 his family relocated to Chicago, where his musical education shifted to hyperspeed under the spell of Muddy Waters
, Howlin' Wolf
, Sonny Boy Williamson II
, Elmore James
and other blues legends. In the ’60s Rush became a bandleader in order to realize the funky soul-blues sound that he was developing. After 1971’s percolating “Chicken Heads” became his first R&B Top 40 hit, he relocated to Mississippi to be closer to his fan base in the South. His performances grew from small juke joints to nightclubs, civic auditoriums and, by the mid-’80s, Las Vegas casinos and the world’s most prominent blues festivals.
Rush’s ascent was depicted in The Road to Memphis
, a film co-starring B.B. King
that was part of the 2003 PBS series Martin Scorsese Presents: The Blues
. Rush has released nearly 30 album since the 1970s. Down in Louisiana
is his first on the Nashville-based Thirty Tigers imprint.