Elvin Bishop’s still sitting on a bale of hay, an earthborn throne for a musical patriarch.
He’s made more than 20 records, none, perhaps, as great as the latest, “Can’t Even Do Wrong Right,” 10 tracks, five of them originals, which revel in slide-guitar and homespun wit and wisdom.
The 71-year-old in bib overalls explains on the album an answer to the age-old question of how man can get along with woman as well as how each of us will end up: “You and me, the president and the pope; everybody’s in the same boat,” Bishop sings, adding he’s never seen a hearse with luggage on top.
Bishop continues crank out albums every year and we expect, and hope for, plenty more. But he reminds us “one of these days, he’s got to go.” He made “Can’t Even Do Wrong Right” LINK as if it were his last.
Bishop has acquired much in his lifetime, especially this year with induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and with three Blues Music Awards for Album Of The Year, Band Of The Year, Song Of The Year (for the title track).
Moreover, Bishop has made many friends. Paul Thorn, another pen-in-hand, tongue-in-cheek artist, drew the cover art for the album. Contributing on harmonica was Charlie Musselwhite, who like Bishop moved Northern California after helping opening a nation’s eyes to Chicago’s music.
“Those were the first white audiences we inspired as musicians to be blues players,” said famed bluesman Billy Boy Arnold, who joined Bishop in Tahoe onstage Jan. 3 for Mark Hummel’s Blues Harmonica Blowout.
Bishop said that as a teenager growing up in Oklahoma he was able to hear blues on the radio because “they couldn’t segregate the airwaves.”
When he received a college scholarship, he elected to go to Chicago to get close to the music. Out of pure luck, he picked University of Chicago instead of Northwestern and wound up on the South Side, the blues hub. During his first week in town, he came across Paul Butterfied, who was on a set of doorsteps drinking beer and playing harmonica.
Bishop became a member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, trading lead guitar riffs with Mike Bloomfield.
A decade after Bishop captured rock fans’ attention with the blues, country fans claimed him with the emerging southern rock genre.
“Elvin Bishop’s sitting on a bale of hay; he ain’t good looking but he sure can play,” Charlie Daniels sang is his anthem “The South’s Gonna Do It Again.”
Bishop gives homage to the lyric in a cover of Fats Domino’s “Bo Weevil” on his new album.