Latter-day blues and roots musicians tend to either crank out note-for-note imitations of timeworn solos and riffs or else go so far out on the edge that their iconoclasm seems condescending to the very traditions they've chosen to keep alive. That's why guitarist Billy Flynn, who grew up in Green Bay and has been a mainstay on the blues circuit since graduating from high school in the mid-70s, stands out: though he's proficient in a dizzying array of styles, he's mastered the art of strutting his influences without sounding dutiful or dilettantish. In a characteristic set he'll segue from sophisticated Texas jump blues into primal Delta emotionalism, then cap it all off with a furious excursion into intense postwar-Chicago-style aggression--but it's all informed by his vivid melodic and harmonic imagination. Although he's released a few items under his own name, Flynn is known best as a sideman; he's toured and recorded with artists ranging from retro outfits like Mississippi Heat to hot-blooded houserockers like Little Smokey Smothers and Jimmy Dawkins. (His aggressive guest slot on Dawkins's searing Kant Sheck Dees Bluze in 1991 surprised a lot of people who'd previously considered him primarily an amiable, shuffle-bound revivalist.) As a front man (backed for these shows by Steve Cushing and the Chicago Blues All-Stars) Flynn may well take the opportunity to dig deep into that fertile imagination. Friday and Saturday, 10 PM, Smoke Daddy, 1804 W. Division; 773-772-6656. DAVID WHITEIS
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by James Fraher.