Music » Music Features

Pass the Porcupine Meat

New music from Bobby Rush, the Sheiks, and Clay Otis.



Bobby Rush — Porcupine Meat (Rounder)

Bobby Rush earned his first gold record in 1971 largely due to a hit called "Chicken Heads." Keeping that in mind, it comes as little surprise that over 40 years later, Rush released an album called Porcupine Meat, his first album for Rounder Records. Over the course of his 60-plus-year career, Rush has written over 300 songs and earned three Grammy nominations and a whopping 10 Blues Music Awards to go along with 41 nominations.

Working with two-time Grammy-winning producer Scott Billington for the first time, Porcupine Meat finds the old bluesman pulling new tricks in a New Orleans studio with Keb' Mo', Dave Alvin, and Joe Bonamassa all making guest appearances on the guitar. But while the list of guest appearances features an elite group of players, Rush is the real star here.

On "I Think Your Dress Is Too Short," Rush's voice is still silky smooth, and the title track "I Don't Want Nobody Hanging Around" is an instant modern blues classic as Rush lists all the people whom he doesn't want bothering him day-to-day. But Porcupine Meat isn't all fun and games. The song "Got Me Accused" is just as socially relevant 40 years ago as it is today, as Rush sings about the racial discrimination he's experienced. Porcupine Meat is available everywhere this Friday.

The Sheiks — Please Pass the Fruit (Automatic Dope)

Taking a cue from Jack Oblivian — the ace guitarist and songwriter that the Sheiks back up — the power trio known as the Sheiks recently released Please Pass the Fruit, a career-spanning demo tape of sorts that covers 2011 through 2015. Limited to 100 copies, Please Pass the Fruit features recordings culled from sessions at the Burgundy Ballroom and High/Low studios in Memphis, in addition to some Austin, Texas, recording sessions done by Andrew McCalla.

Aside from a pretty amazing cover of Waylon Jennings' "Only Daddy," all 14 tracks on Please Pass the Fruit are from the Sheiks' ever-growing catalog. The Sheiks are currently on tour with Oblivian, but copies of the cassette should be available the next time the band performs locally — which, given the Sheiks' propensity to play as much as possible — should be sometime before the month is over.

Clay Otis — Addults (High/Low Recording)

Any day that Clay Otis informs me of a new project is a good one. Otis has been obsessed with writing pop songs about prescription speed (see his song "Adderall Girls" with Shadow Brother) for a while now, and it appears he enjoys the subject so much that he's decided to dedicate an entire album title to the wonder drug taken by children and adults alike. Much like all of Otis' projects, there is a playfulness found throughout Addults — from song titles like "Redneck Cousins" to the album art that features a crude rendering of Otis as some sort of disengaged, possibly stoned teacher. I know I'd sign up for that class.

But while there's always some humor present on a Clay Otis release, he calls Addults a departure from his earlier material in the sense that it is a much more personal album. The lyrics on Addults are some of Otis' best, possibly a product of this being his fifth album in as many years. There's a new side to the singer here, a side I'd dare call mature. Clay croons, laments, and lets his heart bleed all over Addults, and the result is some of his best work to date.

Favorite Track: "Guiletta and Jesus."

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