OTIS RUSH LIVE & AWESOME is a 1996 release that pulled over an hours worth of music from an European tour. Otis was pushing 60 years of age at the time and more than once, informs everyone from the stage how much of an old man he is. I'm glad he retains his swagger by what he identifies himself as being from the album title. What's even more awesome is that in the blues world, age usually makes a musician better.
Otis Rush seemed to have gotten lost in the shuffle of the Chicago blues scene of his generation. That didn't prevent the kids from picking up on his style and when Jimmy Page uses, 'I Can't Quit You Baby' as a song for his new band, Led Zep's debut album, then there's something going on that musicians knew. Otis shared the stage with many up and coming white blues boys and let's be honest, was ripped off as much, if not more than his contemporaries. A song from this set, 'All Your Love,' has Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac written all over it. That, in itself, is a testament to Otis Rush's guitar mastery and interpretation of the blues form.
'I Got a Woman' is a edgier take on the Ray Charles' classic. Otis sings in the same key as Ray, so the song fits his voice but his guitar play with his counterpart, Duke Levine, make you almost forget Ray Charles. Ken Vangel's piano work, as it is on all songs here, is prominent but more as a filler of spaces than a lead instrument. The rhythm section of Tim Green on bass and Julian Vaughn on drums keep everything steady and have a power that borders on rock.
'Gambler's Blues' is over 9 minutes of interaction between the guitars and piano. A great take, as is, ' Right Place, Wrong Time' and 'Cold Day in Hell,' which display a honesty that is missing from so many blues people in their middle ages. A presentation of songs usually become less and less about the blues and more about generic playing to keep the crowds coming back.
Otis Rush may not be often mentioned in the same sentence as BB King, Albert Collins, Muddy Waters or Buddy Guy but maybe he does. This hour long live set is a pretty good indicator of why.
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