When ELVIN BISHOP first came to Chicago from Oklahoma in the early '60s, he was mentored, personally and musically, by an obscure bluesman named LITTLE SMOKEY SMOTHERS. That Bishop subsequently went on to rock & roll fame and fortune with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and as a solo artist while Smothers went on to a day job in lieu of a music career had more to do with their respective pigmentation than any disparity in talent. But Bishop never forgot his old friend, and every time I've interviewed him in the past 20 years, Bishop has always given gushing credit to Smothers for teaching him how to play guitar, as well as teaching him how to cook soul food.
Forty years later, Bishop has finally gotten the opportunity to pay Smothers back by recording a live album with him. That's My Partner (Alligator) is as full of joyous sentiment as it is hot licks. The duo trade off burn-down-the-barn guitar solos, enthusiastic vocals and some engaging, original songs (the Bishop-penned title track is a gleeful reminiscence of a decades-old friendship). Advancing age is another thoroughly explored subject on songs like "Middle Aged Man" and "Slow Down," in which Bishop laments that he has to seek out old friends in the obituaries and advises trading alcohol for Geritol and cocaine for Rogaine. In all fairness, it should be noted that while the infamously homely Bishop is the younger of the two, he's gotten progressively more hideous over the years, while Smothers looks young, fit and ready for love. No matter: as Charlie Daniels once observed of Bishop, "He ain't good-lookin', but he sure can play."
THE FURTHER FESTIVAL AT UNIVERSAL AMPHITHEATRE, 100 UNIVERSAL CENTER DR., UNIVERSAL CITY, (818) 622-4440. THURSDAY, AUG. 24, 6:30 P.M. $33 (NOTE VENUE CHANGE!: This event has been moved from the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim.); REGGAE SUMMERFEST AT THE SUN THEATRE, 2200 E. KATELLA AVE., ANAHEIM, (714) 712-2700. THURSDAY, AUG. 24, 8 P.M. $38.50; BIG JAY MCNEELY AT THE ABILENE ROSE, 10830 WARNER AVE., FOUNTAIN VALLEY, (714) 963-1700. SAT., 9 P.M. $8.