Just as rare as wizened blues masters these days are the old-school R&B performers who worked the chitlin' circuit and its northern inner-city equivalents. We're talking about folks like Clarence Carter, Denise LaSalle, and Millie Jackson -- classic R&B and soul performers who knew how to entertain and titillate. Their songs frequently developed into routines -- mostly concerning sex, love, or the lack thereof -- which often provoked some heavy-duty call-and-response action from the crowd.
One can place singer-harmonica player Bobby Rush in both dwindling camps. Winner of numerous awards for blues and R&B, the Louisiana-born Rush can deliver backwater blues or vintage soul. And he serves it all up with the proper measure of bawdiness for the cabaret crowd, as evidenced by his 2003 release Live From Ground Zero. Rush plays it much straighter, blueswise, on 2004's Folk Funk, which revisits the classic '60s swamp-boogie sound of the Excello label and artists such as Slim Harpo. Oh yeah, and then there are Rush's Exotic Shake Dancers, just in case his lyrics aren't suggestive enough.