The winners have been announced for the 2021 Grammy Awards :
Best Traditional Blues Album
WINNER: “Rawer Than Raw” — Bobby Rush
Best Contemporary Blues Album
WINNER: “Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?” — Fantastic Negrito
Grammy winners 2021: Complete list of results with nominees
BOBBY RUSH WINS GRAMMY FOR RAWER THAN RAW ALBUM IN BEST TRADITIONAL BLUES
Blues icon Bobby Rush’s August 28, 2020 release Rawer Than Raw, a stripped-down acoustic tribute to the rich blues history of Mississippi featuring songs from a handful of blues greats from his adopted home state, has won a Grammy in the Recording Academy’s 63rd Grammy Awards Awards in the Best Traditional Blues category.
This was Rush’s sixth nomination and his second Grammy Award. The Blues Hall of Fame inductee is also winner of 13 Blues Music Awards, among 51 total nominations.
The record, on the 86-year-old’s own Deep Rush Records label in partnership with Thirty Tigers, was the follow-up to his Grammy-nominated 2019 album Sitting on Top of the Blues, and his first project since his acclaimed cameo in last year’s Golden Globe-nominated Eddie Murphy hit film Dolemite Is My Name.
Rush was recently given the Crossroads of American Music Award by the Grammy Museum Mississippi, an annual award first given to country music icon Charley Pride. Rush’s honor brought him congratulatory videos from Bonnie Raitt, Mavis Staples, and others.
According to Rush, “”I want to thank all of my friends, fans, and voters. I accept this Grammy on behalf of all of the people who came before me that helped pave the way for me. Some of the guys who came before me like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and B.B. King who were my friends and inspired me so much. These are guys that taught me not to never give up. I’m speaking about all of the guys who won. All of the guys who didn’t win, I take this on their behalf too. To beat out these guys, I’m so blessed to be in this kind of race with this kind of company. All of these guys are much better than I think that I am.”
Partly inspired by the popular series of intimate solo concerts Rush has made a mainstay of his concert calendar in the years since his first all-acoustic album (titled Raw), Rawer Than Raw casts a spotlight on several Mississippi Blues Hall of Famers: early acoustic blues greats Skip James and Robert Johnson/Elmore James, and Rush’s contemporaries on the music scene of the ’50s and ’60s, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson II, and Muddy Waters. The record features a half dozen covers of some of their best-known songs rendered in Rush’s own inimitable, acoustic style, characterized by wailing harmonica and a stomping foot to keep the rhythm. There are also five Rush originals credited under his given name, Emmett Ellis Jr.: “Down in Mississippi,” “Let Me in Your House,” “Sometimes I Wonder,” “Let’s Make Love Again,” and “Garbage Man,” all whose country vibe matches the songs that inspired the album.
“Although I was born in Louisiana, I’m proud to call Mississippi home,” says Rush, who moved to Jackson, Mississippi, in the 1980s and traces his family connections to the Magnolia State back to his great grandparents. “I’m saluting Mississippi guys because they, to me, stayed truest to their roots. If you want to get the real deal of the blues, get it from the bluesmen who are from Mississippi. Whether they migrated somewhere else like Chicago or Beverly Hills, if they are from Mississippi you can hear the deep roots of Mississippi in their stories.”
Long considered one of the blues’ preeminent raconteurs, Rush has always placed a premium on stories in his music. In the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, his risqué, humor-filled chitlin’ circuit shows often featured long narratives of romantic misadventures.
In the new century, as he made a bid for mainstream acceptance as one of the blues’ last connections to its golden age, Rush began to tell different stories. His tale-spinning of a life spent playing 200-plus shows a year, and his appearances in documentaries like “The Road to Memphis” episode of Martin Scorsese’s The Blues (2003), and Take Me to the River (2014), helped catapult his late-career star. In 2014, Bobby joined Dan Aykroyd on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to perform two songs, marking his first late-night television appearance.
In 2001, Rush earned his first Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album for Hoochie Man. In the years since he has been nominated for Grammys four more times, including last year for Sitting on Top of the Blues, to go along with 51 Blues Music Award nominations and 13 wins. Rush won his first Grammy in 2017 for Best Traditional Blues Album for the Rounder Records/Concord Music release Porcupine Meat, produced by Scott Billington.
Rawer Than Raw is a spiritual sequel to Rush’s 2007 all-original album Raw. That album was Rush’s first acoustic effort and proved a gamechanger for him, showcasing a different artistic side and exposing him to new audiences. It also inspired the creation of a companion acoustic show, Bobby Rush: An Intimate Evening of Stories and Songs, that remains a popular draw today.
True to its name, Rawer Than Raw was made simply with performances recorded as unadorned as possible: just Rush’s voice, guitar, harmonica, and feet. Rush produced the album, along with executive producers Jeff DeLia (his longtime manager) and Randy Everett, who helped conceive the album concept and engineer it. The recordings were made in Jackson, Miss. with Mississippi native Everett behind the board. The two focused on some of Rush’s favorite artists, selecting songs that were not only representative of them but that also fit with Rush’s own inimitable acoustic style.
Rush’s penchant for storytelling has culminated in his forthcoming debut memoir, I AIN’T STUDDIN’ YA: My American Blues Story, scheduled to release from Hachette Books (Keith Richards, Buddy Guy, Tina Fey) on June 22, 2021. Rush gives readers intimate access into his life like never before, transposing tales from his remarkable career over the course of five decades in the music industry.
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