BY TOM CALLAHAN
Few artists deserve the title legendary. But Elvin Bishop is legendary. And a half century as a musician, his latest album on Alligator–Can’t Even Do Wrong Right–shows Bishop the height of his powers as a musician, songwriter, and slide guitarist. Bishop tells us on the CD: “Now I’m 71 and still having fun…Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think.”
Indeed it is. Bishop has had an incredible career. While in college in Chicago, he started learning the blues from the masters in the small ghetto bars. His first gig was with Junior Wells in 1962. He made history when he became a charter member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in 1963. That band introduced electrified Chicago blues to kids across the country and their album East/West in 1966 is still one of the greatest rock/blues albums ever made. But Bishop was just starting. With his bandmate, Michael Bloomfield, they pioneered the idea of twin lead guitars in a band, thus laying the foundation of Southern rock before the Allman Brothers. That is Bishop playing with the Allmans at the Fillmore in 1971. Bishop’s Southern rock period in the 1970s included the monster hit from 1976, “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.” Eventually, he settled in Northern California and cut over 20 albums, including several acclaimed albums for Alligator that brought him back to his blues roots.
Can’t Even Do Wrong Right is classic Elvin Bishop. With five original songs, it showcases his ability to write songs that can make you smile while telling you a funny “everyman” story. It is a perfect example of what Bishop calls “electrified front porch blues.” And he is still one of the greatest slide players in the world as he proves on Jimmy Reed’s “Honest I Do.” On “Old School” Bishop is joined by another legend, harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite. The CD is worth the price just to hear these two blues veterans trade riffs. Another highlight is Bishop’s reunion with Mickey Thomas, the ex-Jefferson Starship singer, who handled vocals on “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.” “Let Your Woman Have Her Way” is their first recording together since the 1970s hit that was all over the airwaves back then; it was hard to walk down the street back then without hearing the tune.
In short, Can’t Even Do Wrong Right is an essential album. It will please the most diehard Bishop fan while also serving as an entryway to his music for new fans. We are lucky that Elvin Bishop is still having fun with music. It means that we all can as well.
DOWNLOAD: “Can’t Even Do Wrong Right” Old School” Let You Woman Have Her Way”