Red Dog howls
Elvin Bishop’s cherry red 1959 Gibson ES-345 howls over meandering blues in the opening track of his newest album, leaving no question as to why it’s earned the name Red Dog and how well it can speak.
Red Dog Speaks journeys through old-timey blues and rock ‘n’ roll to zydeco with an all-star roster of contributors that includes Tommy Castro, Johnny Németh and Buckwheat Zydeco. Bishop’s own journey is evident in the down-home storytelling and varied styles. From the crooning blues of “Red Dog Speaks,” Bishop transitions into the rollicking “Neighbor Neighbor” with Németh providing vocals alongside the husky whine of the trusty Gibson. Bishop mostly abandons lyrical complexity in favor of guitar work and solid ensemble playing, but the lyrical interludes on “Fat and Sassy” are almost distracting in their quirkiness: “So much pumpkin pie til it was a sin / And a twenty-two pound turkey that’ll never fly again.” Bishop has another example of timeless blues under his belt, but it’s best when he lets Red Dog do the talking.