The aptly titled Elvin Bishop's Big Gun Trio brings together guitarist and vocalist Bishop with pianist and guitarist Bob Welsh and percussionist and vocalist Willy Jordan who brought a cajón, a South American percussion instrument. The three started jamming in Elvin's studio one day and the combination of the three clicked big time leading to the present recording which has four Bishop originals, three co-writes and four covers. Kim Wilson, Charlie Musselwhite and Rick Estrin each lend their harmonica talents to a song each.
Big Fun is so true and the sparse instrumentation matched with the good-time feel from the interplay by the three make for some marvelous listening. Not being familiar with Willy Jordan, to these ears he was a revelation as a singer. Bishop has his appeal in his almost goofy, back porch style, but Jordan can mix humor and a deep blues soulfulness while Welsh's piano helps push things along. Things open up with Welsh's rollicking piano and a steady groove on "Let It Roll" with its message of don't let the politician bastards get you down. "Honey Babe" matches Bishop's stinging guitar with Welsh playing bass lines on his guitar on a number with a back porch feel. Wilson joins in on a raucous and terrific cover of Sunnyland Slim's "It's You, Baby," with a standout vocal by Jordan, and terrific piano, and fat-toned harmonica.
"Delta Lowdown," an instrumental that sounds based on the Jimmy Rogers' 1950 Chess recording "Goin' Away Blues," with Estrin channeling Little Walters' country inflected harp. Jordan then takes the vocal on a solid cover of The Valentinos' "Its All Over Now," as Elvin channels Bobby Womack in his guitar playing. "100 Years of Blues" is a talking blues duet between Bishop and Charlie Musselwhite as they recall their old times that evokes Louisiana swamp blues of Lightnin' Slim and others with the restrained backing. Elvin plays slide guitar with some New Orleans piano heard behind Jordan's solid vocal on a lively cover of "Let the Four Winds Blow." "That's What I'm Talkin' About," is a culinary travelogue as Elvin talks about going to a place on Polydas in New Orleans as Jordan sings some of the items on the menu. Then making it Seattle, and Elvin suggests a drive through and get burgers and instead there is a soul food menu with Jordan again singing about some of the menu items. "Can't Take No More," has a gospel-inflected Jordan vocal on this slow blues with Bishop laying down a super West Side Chicago styled guitar solo.
A nice, lazy instrumental "Southside Slide," that sounds inspired by "Blue Monk" and "Honky Tonk," closes this marvelously entertaining recording of blues big fun.
I received my review copy from Alligator Records. This review appeared in the March-April Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 371). Here Elvin Bishop's Big Fun Trio is in performance.