Charles Wilson's CD It's Sweet on the Backstreet (Ecko) has been making inroads on contemporary blues-radio playlists since it came out in 1995; if not enough listeners are familiar with him, it may be because the cultural and commercial barriers that separate African-American blues audiences from their white counterparts remain as entrenched as ever. Wilson is equally conversant in 12-bar blues, deep soul, and urban pop; he sings with a gospel-drenched urgency; and he prefers his arrangements heavy on the horns, with string-bending guitar leads shaking their way through the mix. He has an especially winning way with a soul ballad--his high-pitched voice attains pleading vulnerability without losing its street-level grit. On up-tempo selections, although occasionally his phrasing sounds a bit stiff, he puts over the material with agreeable energy and melodic sureness. This show, a birthday bash organized by Wilson himself, will also feature Otis Clay, Cyl Johnson, and Wilson's uncle Little Milton Campbell, among others. If all goes according to plan, it should be the kind of all-night, all-star blues revue that's been strangely absent from the Chicago scene recently. Tuesday, 8 PM, Ebony Room, 7700 S. Vincennes; 773-561-6045 or 773-994-8634. DAVID WHITEIS
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Charles Wilson photo.