Until recently Charles Wilson has hewed to a mainstream contemporary soul/blues sound--synthesized rhythm tracks, plenty of dance numbers, and cheating songs with titles like "Why Should I Get Married When My Neighbor's Got a Wife?"--but this year the Chicago-born vocalist released the electronics-free If Heartaches Were Nickels (Delmark) in an apparent bid to break into the now predominantly white market for "authentic" blues and deep soul. Wilson's keening tenor imbues the fatback horn charts and funk rhythms with churchy emotion, and he brings a winning energy to some well-traveled material. The title track is a self-pitying boilerplate blues by Gov't Mule's Warren Haynes, which Wilson nevertheless infuses with a captivating meld of world-weariness and youthful vulnerability. An organ-propelled take on the Ricky Allen standard "Cut You A-Loose" unleashes all of that song's pent-up rock 'n' roll aggression. At times, Wilson slyly exploits the stylistic gulf between the two blues markets he's trying to straddle: "Hattie Mae's" is a knockoff of "Annie Mae's Cafe," a 1987 hit for his uncle, Little Milton (who sits in to play the song's serpentine guitar line). Such homages to juking are a cliche on the chitlin' circuit these days, but they may sound fresh to many of the new listeners Wilson is trying to reach. This show is billed as a CD-release party, although the album's been in the stores since April. $10. Friday, August 20, 9:30 PM, B.L.U.E.S., 2519 N. Halsted; 773-528-1012.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Susan Greenberg.