Along with Al Green, Ann Peebles was one of the twin pillars of the late-60s, early-70s Memphis soul sound pioneered by producer Willie Mitchell at Hi Records. The Hi sound was less showy than the flamboyant rootsiness that characterized Stax, Memphis's other R & B giant, but at its best it attained a fusion of sensual and spiritual longing that has seldom been equaled. Peebles, who'd worked on gospel shows with the likes of Mahalia Jackson and the Soul Stirrers featuring Sam Cooke, sang with an irresistible secular fervor. On hits like "I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down," "I Can't Stand the Rain," and "Dr. Love Power" she managed to be declamatory, sexy, bluesy, cosmopolitan, and little-girl innocent all at the same time. Lately Peebles has been testing the comeback waters. On her latest CD, Fill This World With Love (Bullseye Blues), synths and a blocky, postfunk rhythmic harshness replace the burbling percussive dexterity and punchy horn lines of old, and Peebles sings in a dark rasp that sounds dramatically more worldly and wounded than her earlier clear warble. Purists may grumble, but I find it refreshing that this elder stateswoman of soul refuses to be relegated to museum-piece status. Saturday, 10 PM, Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 S. Wabash; 312-427-0333 or 312-427-1190.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Ann Peebles by James Fraher.