My passion for music has turned me, at times, into an unapologetic cheerleader and evangelist. When I stumble onto something I love, it's not enough for me to hold that experience for myself. I feel compelled to share it with anyone who'll listen and many more who won't. I've never fully accepted that most people don't want my unsolicited, insistent help where music is concerned because I just can't imagine how anyone can let one more day of their life pass without experiencing whatever that particular day's obsession is.
One of the side effects of the apathy I usually encounter is I start to consider whatever I'm listening to as being underrated or underappreciated. In no universe is Otis Rush not respected as a pillar of the blues, but to me it feels like he doesn't get enough respect or that I've somehow failed him because I haven't been able to convert enough people to the cause. A lesser man might abandon all hope. The truth is, I probably am that lesser man but I'm too obsessed to notice. If the definition of insanity really is doing the same thing and expecting different results, you can lock me in the loony bin.
Two years ago, I wrote a lengthy piece about my devotion to Rush's music. If I were going to introduce a newcomer to the music of Otis Rush, I'd take that article and boil it down to this: buy a copy of The Essential Otis Rush: The Classic Cobra Recordings 1956-1958 and Right Place, Wrong Time. The music on those two discs provides all the evidence one needs to establish his's place in history.
Today's song, "Cold Day in Hell," is from the album of the same title and is most definitely not the place I'd start most listeners looking for their first exposure to Rush. Don't get me wrong, it's a great song but it's great because of its unusualness. In a genre too often dominated by bravado, braggadocio, and misogyny, "Cold Day in Hell" is a portrait of a haunted man, excoriating himself for mistakes of the past and vowing not to make them again.
What separates this tale of love gone wrong from the others is how convincingly Rush is as a man in agony, disintegrating behind the microphone. His pleasing croon morphs into a hair-raising howl as saxophone wails in the background.
Otis Rush is going to continue to be a pet project of mine. If you haven't tried him out or worse haven't heard of him before, you could save us all a lot of time by buying those CDs I mentioned above now. The choice is yours.