Albert King's smooth, string-bending guitar passion complements a voice that's one of the most expressive in modern blues, capable of bringing equal conviction and skill to dusky balladry and barrel-chested macho. His fretwork, though not as technically amazing as that of nonrelatives Freddie and B.B. King, is as polished and stylized as any on the current scene. Sometimes, in fact, one wishes he'd take a few chances and insert some audacity or raw edges into his solos, which can sound as if they're coming off his own personal assembly line. But then he wouldn't be Albert King; that stubborn predictability is vital to his patented persona of aggressively arrogant self-confidence. Imperiously smoking his pipe onstage and glaring at errant bandsmen, barking out commands to the sound engineers and demanding audience participation, King cuts an unforgettable figure. No one but a master craftsman could get away with it for over 40 years, and that King's prevailed without compromise for this long is perhaps the most telling testimonial to his musicianship and enduring vitality. Tonight and Saturday, B.L.U.E.S. Etcetera, 1124 W. Belmont; 525-8989.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Fraher.