Published Aug 19, 2014At 71 years old, veteran blues guitarist Elvin Bishop shows no signs of slowing down. His new album, Can't Even Do Wrong Right, is the 19th record of his long career, and displays his full range of scratchy blues, rock and R&B. Of the ten tracks, five are Bishop originals, while the others are classic covers of blues legends.
Bishop attacks every song with characteristic wisecracking attitude. The title track "Can't Even Do Wrong Right," profiles the misguided ventures of Maurice, a conniving low-level criminal with a taste for infidelity. The goofy tale is appropriately backed by a Thorogood-type rhythm guitar and sung in a similar, spoken-word fashion. The song establishes the mood here, and although there is nothing entirely novel about the record, it's full of youthful raucousness and fun. In his old age, Bishop is a musician that seems to be enjoying himself more than artists 50 years his junior, as evidenced on "We're All in the Same Boat," a self-reflective ditty about aging and human mortality. Usually, hearing a senior ruminate about death would seem dark and highly uncomfortable, but Bishop's lyrics possess a levity that makes eventual mortality less taboo; buoyancy in a sea of trouble is Bishop's bread and butter. Even on his R&B contribution, "Let Your Woman Have Her Way," he manages to be light hearted while being simultaneously romantic. Contributing to the effectiveness of the lyrics is Bishop's always-appropriate guitar tone and riffs that pair so perfectly with his subjects.
Elvin Bishop has interwoven himself into the extensive American blues tapestry. Having been in the blues business for over 50 years, it is heartening to hear him still wearing out fretboards. (Alligator)