Bobby "Slim" James | Water Hole Lounge | Blues, Gospel, and R&B | Chicago Reader

Bobby "Slim" James Member Picks Free Soundboard Recommended Critics' Picks

When: Wed., Oct. 27, 9:30 p.m. 2010

The first recording from Chicago singer and guitarist Bobby "Slim" James, 1968's "I Really Love You" (Karol), made little noise here, but overseas it became an aficionados' favorite; in more recent years his music has become popular on northern-soul playlists in the UK. Back home, though, James continues to scuffle along what's left of the south- and west-side blues circuits, recording classy but underrecognized CDs like last year's Brand New Man (Annie Gee), on which he delivers material by coproducers Bob Jones and Robert Newsome in his trademark stripped-down soul-blues style. His guitar work, despite its odd, thin timbre, is supple and expressive; his vocals convey deep emotion without getting overly theatrical. Unlike too many contemporary soul-blues artists, James specializes in songs that tell meaningful stories; whether he's describing a country-bred striver confronting the hardscrabble realities of big-city living ("Real Story") or meditating on the toll that emotional vulnerability can take on even the strongest people ("It's Only That They're Lonely"), he has an ability to combine weary wisdom with hopeful romantic longing that recalls the glory days of deep soul. James usually leads a trio or quartet onstage, so the songs will sound leaner at this show than they do on the album—but his emotional forthrightness and deft musicianship, as well as the unforced yet propulsive support he gets from his band, make it unlikely you'll miss the studio arrangements. This is a regular Wednesday-night gig. —David Whiteis

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