Melody Angel is the future of the blues | Music Feature | Chicago Reader

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Melody Angel is the future of the blues

This Chicago musician and actress blends blues, old-school rock ’n’ roll, R&B, hip-hop, and more to create a style all her own.

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Melody Angel performs at Australia’s Byron Bay Bluesfest in April 2019. - TERRY O'HAGAN
  • Terry O'Hagan
  • Melody Angel performs at Australia’s Byron Bay Bluesfest in April 2019.

At her best, young Chicago singer-guitarist Melody Angel comes on like a one-woman Black Rock Coalition. She updates ideas drawn from blues and old-school rock 'n' roll with a hard-rock ferocity that never crosses into overkill, while also incorporating generous helpings of R&B, hip-hop, and Tracy Chapmanesque balladry into her style.


Melody Angel
Sat 6/8, 11 AM, Crossroads Stage

Melody Angel Band
Sun 6/9, 9 PM, Rosa's Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage, $15, 21+

Mary Lane blues jam session, Melody Angel: A Woman’s Blues
Thu 6/13, 8:30 PM, Rosa’s Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage, $10, 21+


Angel's emotional range is both wide and deep, intensified by the socially conscious sensibility of her lyrics. She inhabits her politically charged vignettes of struggle and survival as one who's lived them, compelling her listeners to experience them the same way, with no room for liberal bromides or ironic detachment ("How dare you judge me / In your glass house," she proclaims in "Cease Fire," on her 2016 album In This America). But she won't give in to cynicism or despair: as she sings in "Rebel," from the same record, "I got the looks, I got the clothes, I got the sex appeal. . . . I'm a rebel with a cause and it feels so good!"

  • A solo performance of “Rebel” from late 2018

Recently, Angel has expanded her artistic activities to include both theater and film. In 2018, she appeared in Suzan-Lori Parks's Father Comes Home From the Wars at the Goodman Theatre, and this year she played one of the leads in Court Theatre's production of Ntozake Shange's award-winning For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf. Also in 2018, she starred in the independently produced film Knockout, the story of a young African American woman who faces down her family's disapproval of her passion for boxing. The film, which concluded with a searing rendition of Angel's blues-rock anthem "Always on Me," was named Best Picture at Chicago's 14th annual 48 Hour Film Project. Angel's performance earned her Best Lead Actress recognition at the 2018 Filmapalooza competition in Orlando. In May, Knockout was screened at the Cannes Film Festival.

  • Melody Angel’s 2019 album Angels & Melodies

If the blues is to survive and grow as a contemporary African American art form, artists like Melody Angel will make it happen.  v

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