LITTLE JIMMY KING
Guitarist Little Jimmy King cut his teeth playing behind the late Albert King, a notorious taskmaster who grew fond enough of his sideman to claim him as a godson (thus Jimmy's stage name; his birth certificate reads Manuel Gales). Since the elder King's death in 1992, his pupil has been characteristically blunt about his anointment as keeper of the flame: "[Albert] wanted to leave his tradition with someone," he told Living Blues magazine in 1995. "A lot of people don't believe in the dead talking to you, but Albert talks to me every day." King attacks his fretboard with a steely ferocity reminiscent of his mentor, but onstage he hits levels of high-voltage mania Albert never dreamed of, spiked with rock 'n' roll (he cites Jeff Beck and Van Halen as influences) and the chunky soul chording and swaggering funk he picked up in Memphis. On his most recent disc, Soldier for the Blues (Bullseye Blues), King fuses roots and raucousness in a surprisingly elegant personal statement. (He also drops the "Little" from his name.) The synthesized strings and insistent funk bass line on "Living in the Danger Zone" enhance rather than muddle the song's deep blues emotion; "We'll Be Together Again" is an aching ballad in the southern soul tradition. The title track and "I Don't Need Nobody That Don't Need Me" could almost be Albert King outtakes, but "It Ain't the Same No Mo," though it stays in a similar groove, uses feedback and sustain to bring a modern, metallic glint to the traditionally structured solos. King's hubris can be grating--on the new record he's accompanied by a band called the King James Version--but he's got the power to back it up. Saturday, 10 PM, Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 S. Wabash; 312-427-0333. DAVID WHITEIS
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Karen Pulfer-Foch.