Chicago's Cicero Blake was already a 20-year veteran of doo-wop, soul, and R & B when, in the mid-70s, he wrapped his gritty but sweet tenor around "Dip My Dipper," a minor R & B classic that helped define the era's soul-blues style. The song's written as a slow-grinding ode to illicit sex, but Blake's silken crooning, effortless enunciation and phrasing, and warmth of feeling transformed it into a tender, even yearning, tribute to erotic bliss. Blake's enjoyed some regional success both before and after that moment; on last year's Ain't Nothing Wrong (Mardi Gras), he's as sexy and insinuating as ever, despite the album's annoyingly synth-heavy production. Blake's deep-soul wail on "Waiting for You" is more churchy than it's been in years; on both "Can't Keep My Hands to Myself" and the title track, he wittily returns to his "Dip My Dipper" persona, inhabiting the roles of both the cuckolding trickster and the lovesick lothario. But he's especially adept at playing the tough-but-tender lover man in cases where infidelity isn't the issue: on "Stroke You" he promises his lady a night of ecstasy in a rough-textured croon seasoned with breathy vibrato, and on "If It Wasn't for the Woman" he's eager to ensure that his vulnerable but streetwise sentiments get across--even if he has to conquer the track's aggressive trigger-drum percussion to do it. Saturday 11/13, 8 PM, Bossman Blues Center, 3500 W. Lake, 773-722-8744, $20.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Fraher.