With this week's arrival a second album from his Big Fun Trio — Something Smells Funky 'Round Here, whose title track premieres exclusively below — Elvin Bishop feels like he's establishing the group as a going concern.
“It's just what I do now, I guess,” the guitarist and Rock and Roll Hall Famer (as a founding member the Paul Butterfield Blues Band) tells Billboard, unapologetically reveling that the BFT has proven its initial doubters wrong. “It looked like the odds weren't too good at it succeeding,” he recalls. “It's funny; I think the first instinct a lot people have is that when you downsize to a trio it's because financial reasons. That really wasn't it. I took my seven-, eight-piece band as far as I could and I couldn't think anything more to do with it. I'm a democratic kind guy, wanting to keep people happy. I gave a lot solos to the other guys, and when you do that you stand around with your thumb up your butt waiting for the trombone player to finish.”
That, he says, is not the case with the BFT.
“Oh, no — the trio is a lot more fun,” Bishop says the troupe he formed during 2015 with guitarist/pianist Bob Welsh and percussionist Willy Jordan. “With the trio you've got to be there all the time. There's no place to hide. You've got to be kicking something in there. It keeps you interested.”
Time spent together made Something Smells Funky 'Round Here “a little easier” to make than the BFT's self-titled 2017 debut, according to Bishop. “I had a better idea what I was dealing with,” he explains. “I had a more realistic idea everybody's strong points and limitations. I think the average trio's response to anything is to play louder and use more notes, but Willy and Bob are tremendous musicians so we don't really have to do that. This time I was able to match the material with the strong points we have among the three us and figure out the best way to approach stuff.”
The album, out on July 13, features some stylized covers — Jackie Wilson's “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” and Ann Peebles' “I Can't Stand the Rain” — alongside six band originals. The title track takes things in a political direction, with Bishop providing “my little two cents' worth on the situation that's happening now.” And while Bishop claims he's “not really a political guy,” Something Smells Funky 'Round Here reveals that he's definitely paying attention these days.
“It takes quite a bit to get me stirred up,” Bishop says. “There's just such a divide in the country right now, and people are so bitter about it. I think Trump's kind a mean-spirited guy and he's making it hard for people to be decent to one another.”
Bishop's BFT is already on the road and will be touring extensively in support Something Smells Funky 'Round Here. Bishop isn't predicting how long he'll stay in this particular musical situation, but he's enjoying the adventure — as well as the opportunity to have it. “I think I'm real lucky to be in the position I'm in,” Bishop says. “If I'd given any thought to how long the odds were for a guy to go and basically do what I do and come out OK with it, I'm sure I wouldn't have done it. I got no encouragement from my family, that's for sure. But I get to do what I want to for a living and I get a lot appreciation for it, probably more than I deserve. It really is all good.”