MUSIC BOX: Get some legendary Bishop blues

By on March 4, 2014
Elvin Bishop (left), founding member of Paul Butterfield Blues, plays the Center Sunday
Elvin Bishop (left), founding member of Paul Butterfield Blues, plays the Center Sunday

Elvin Bishop (left), founding member of Paul Butterfield Blues, plays the Center Sunday

JACKSON, WYO – Elvin Bishop simply knows how to boogie and have a good time with an audience. The humble, good-souled 71-year-old is one of the most respected guitarists in blues-rock history, and the feel of his music instills exuberance.

A career that is as long and storied as Elvin Bishop’s is worth tapping into. He won a full scholarship to the University of Chicago as a National Merit Scholar to study physics, so Bishop trekked from his Tulsa home to Chicago in 1960. Near the university on Chicago’s south side – ground zero for the urban blues he had been studying from afar – Bishop met fellow student and harmonica player Paul Butterfield.

“I was amazed to find other white guys into blues,” Bishop said of Butterfield.

Together, they explored the blues joints where Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Otis Rush, Magic Sam and Howlin’ Wolf could be found playing in corner bars for a $2 cover charge. The late-night education led to forming the legendary Paul Butterfield Blues Band with second guitarist Mike Bloomfield and Howlin’ Wolf rhythm section of Jerome Arnold (bass) and Sam Lay (drums). Arguably the first true blues-rock group, they came together several months before the Yardbirds and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Bishop stayed in the band during a string of classic records including the seminal East-West (1966) before forming the Elvin Bishop Group in 1968, which co-headlined a series of shows at Fillmore East with The Allman Brothers. According to Bishop, one must have some luck in the music biz, not just solid chops.

“I think there are guys who are as good or better than me that haven’t been lucky enough to get the right breaks and meet the right people,” Bishop said over the phone. “I started out on a farm, and before I was able to make a living playing music I worked in the steel mills, the oil fields, construction, tearing up streets with a jackhammer. I know what real work is, and the guitar feels pretty light compared to that other stuff.”

His 1976 hit sung by Mickey Thomas, “Fooled around and Fell in Love,” is one of Bishop’s signature songs, though perhaps the least representative of his catalog. What better defines Bishop’s distinct blues-rock-country melting pot, is “Travelin’ Shoes,” from the 1975 album, Let it Flow.

Bishop’s absolutely grooving six-piece band includes bassist Ruth Davies, guitarist Bob Welsh, trombonist Ed Earley, keyboardist and accordionist S.E. Willis, and drummer/vocalist Bobby Cochran.

“The number one thing is … it’s got to have groove or there’s no sense in goin’ no further brother,” Bishop said. “We’re trying to make people feel good and the groove is what does that.”

Whether playing rhythm, lead or slide, Bishop is seemingly one of the more underrated guitarists with some of the more underappreciated blues-boogie albums of his heyday. Grammy-nominated 2008 album The Blues Rolls On and being named 2009 Male Blues Artist of the Year by Blues Blast Magazine are well deserved. Don’t miss the chance to see a key link to an era of blues history.

Elvin Bishop Band, 7 p.m. on Sunday at the Center Theater. $50-$65., 733-4900.

Break Science hits The Rose Wednesday.

Break Science hits The Rose Wednesday.

In the lab with Break Science
When half of an electronic-based duo is a drummer, you just know it’s going to have a heavy, bangin’ backbeat. The new album from Break Science, Seven Bridges, is certainly that, though the hip-hop/glitch-hop flavored album has enough breathing room that it doesn’t always push the level to 11 (stream it via The Brooklyn based duo is on Soulive’s Royal Family Records, and is comprised of producer Borahm Lee and producer/drummer Adam Deitch, who has worked similar roles with Lettuce, Pretty Lights, 50 Cent, Redman, and Talib Kweli. Get ready for a hot club night at the Garter.

Break Science, 9 p.m. on Wednesday at Pink Garter Theatre. Late Night Radio, and Strat & Mouse open the show. $17 to $25.

Banjo-less Bluegrass Thursday: Pigs and Hills
One would think that there’s no such thing as trimming the fat when it comes to simmering local band One Ton Pig. A large ensemble with respect to bluegrass bands, the six-piece has a lot to offer outside of its seven-year residence as the Tuesday night house band at the Silver Dollar Bar. Scaling back to unplugged acoustic instruments, this is your chance to hear the band’s original music in all of its glory before they hit the road for a weeklong tour of Colorado.

One Ton Pig, 8 p.m. on Thursday at Dornan’s in Moose. $12 at Valley Bookstore and Dornan’s. 733-2415.

 Head for the Hills plays Town Square Tavern Photo MARK LEVERETTE

Head for the Hills plays Town Square Tavern Photo MARK LEVERETTE

Similar to most 21st century bluegrass bands these days, Colorado quartet Head for the Hills reaches into indie rock, jazz, world, folk, even hip-hop. But not all indie string bands can take it to the stages that HFTH has reached – Telluride Bluegrass Fest, Wakarusa, High Sierra, and charting in the CMJ Top 200 will do wonders for a grassroots following. That following has grown over several regular stops in Jackson since 2008. This is not your high lonesome sound ala Del McCoury, but a rather twang-free, cleaner palette of grass that Colorado has become known for.

Head for the Hills, 9:30 p.m. on Thursday at Town Square Tavern. $10., 733-3886.

About Aaron Davis

Aaron Davis is a decade-long writer of Music Box, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley, and co-founder of The WYOmericana Caravan.

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