Elvin Bishop, the great blues-rocker and slide guitar master, is back on Alligator Records with a new album of good-time blues. The five originals and five classics comprising Can’t Even Do Wrong Right express the party-central aspect of the blues, with infectious zydeco jams and strains of happy-dramatic ’70s rock guitar worked smoothly into the mix.
With a lo-fi vibe and unstoppable positivity Bishop, his band, and guest stars including Charlie Musselwhite and Willie Jordan chug through a cross-section of blues styles with a sense of history and a sense of humor. Bishop’s and Bob Welsh’s guitar licks are wry, not weeping, true to the blues tradition but also reflecting Bishop’s long career at the forefront of the evolution of guitar rock, beginning with his work with The Paul Butterfield Blues Band in the 1960s.
The deep echoey guitar solo in Bishop’s new take on the old Little Walter hit “Blues with a Feeling” rings just a little psychedelic, and the opening duel guitar lines of the blues talker “Everybody’s in the Same Boat” carry a hint of the cavernous six-string sound that later evolved into progressive rock. Bishop and Willie Jordan may be “Old School,” as they affirm on their song by that title, but Bishop’s blues feels timeless, especially on songs like the tasty instrumental “No More Doggin’.”
An unexpected treat is a guest appearance by singer Mickey Thomas on the original soul tune “Let Your Woman Have Her Way.” Thomas provided the vocals on Bishop’s long-ago but forever-green hit “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” and he’s in good form nearly 40 years later.
The original “Dancin'” and the old Fats Domino tune “Bo Weevil” bring the bouncy Cajun dance grooves, and “Honest I Do” manages to evoke Hawaiian music and the Southern rock of Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers at the same time, with guitar lines both distorted and sweet. On the other hand, the disc closes with a shuffling take on “Hey-Ba-Ba-Re-Bop” that feels like it’s from the 1940s. Which all goes to show how throughout the disc Bishop’s smiling and gliding slide guitar and twinkling, avuncular voice affirm the timelessness and celebratory soul of music at its most essential.