A.C. Reed & the Sparkplugs | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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A.C. Reed & the Sparkplugs

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Veteran saxophonist A.C. Reed is something of an anomaly among contemporary blues hornmen: his style seems to owe more to the raucous guitar sound of early-60s Chicago guitarists like Buddy Guy than to the roadhouse honkers who usually provide the inspiration for blues horn blowers. His repertoire consists primarily of straight-ahead Chicago-style burners interspersed with the occasional soul or R & B classic ("Knock on Wood"). Reed's most unique quality, though, is his way with lyrics: sometimes bitingly topical ("Hard Times," "Moving out of the Ghetto"), other times oddly self-deprecating and even self-defeating ("I'm in the Wrong Business"), his songs walk a thin line between righteous outrage and whiny self-pity. That's dangerous territory, but he's usually redeemed by the balls-out enthusiasm in his playing. His Sparkplugs back him up with a combination of rough-toned aggression and roof-raising danceability, which is probably why he spends a lot of time on the college-roadhouse circuit and hasn't been seen in town for a while. Friday and Saturday, Kingston Mines, 2548 N. Halsted; 477-4646.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Fraher.

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