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Chicago Blues Festival 2001

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In the past, critics have accused the Mayor's Office of Special Events and the Blues Festival's all-volunteer advisory committee of adopting a cynical "book it and they will come" attitude: if almost anything that includes the words "Chicago" and "blues" will draw tourists to Grant Park like flies on sherbet, and if four days of free music and outdoor drinking is enough to entice throngs of Chicagoans to join them, then why bother being creative? But this year, at least, it appears as if a genuine attempt has been made to strike a balance among regional, aesthetic, and even generational considerations to please locals, tourists, novices, and aficionados alike.

The Best Buy stage, booked by the festival's major corporate sponsor, continues to look more like a frat party than a juke joint. And bringing David Evans, a Memphis-based academic and musician, to Chicago to illustrate the southern blues tradition is like bringing coals to Newcastle: Chicagoans ranging from still-active Delta-born pioneers like Honeyboy Edwards to revivalists like Fruteland Jackson and Eric Noden could (and do) fit the bill nicely. If we have to import someone, an iconoclastic backwoods savant like Paul "Wine" Jones or Henry Qualls would be both more entertaining and more representative of the true southern-blues milieu.

The most exciting bookings are a pair of comebacks: Ike Turner, whose status as a founding father of rock 'n' roll has been obscured by the black cloud of his personal history, closes the Friday night show on the main stage, then returns Saturday afternoon in a more intimate setting with Pinetop Perkins, whom he credits as having originally inspired him to play piano. And long-lost guitar legend Jody Williams, who played on some of the most influential Chicago blues and soul sides as a Chess session man, is making his first festival appearance. Headliners Irma Thomas, a classic New Orleans R & B stylist, and soul-blues vocalist Mel Waiters seldom perform here; highlights on the smaller stages include Detroit blues queen Alberta Adams, the Holmes Brothers, Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, and the redoubtable Magic Slim.

As usual, the action is spread over six venues. The Petrillo Music Shell, of course, presents the big-name headliners. The Crossroads stage, where Jackson meets Lake Shore Drive, features mostly local hard-driving electric blues. The Front Porch, south of Jackson and west of Columbus, tends toward more traditional acoustic fare, though a few acts will plug in. The Juke Joint stage, on Columbus near Monroe, features an eclectic lineup ranging from traditionalist fingerpickers to blues-rock warriors. Best Buy's stage is at the intersection of Jackson and Columbus; farther south on Columbus is the Route 66 Roadhouse stage, which in a new twist this year will host a series of educational sessions featuring performances and lectures by musicians, writers, and recording industry figures. DW

THURSDAY, JUNE 7

BEST BUY SHOWCASE

NOON ROGER CONNELLY & THE BLUES MERCHANTS

Never thought I'd hear myself saying this about a younger Chicago blues band, but guitarist, harpist, and percussionist Roger Connelly and his Blues Merchants really need to kick out the jams. On their current disc, Reason to Cry (Lyin' Dog), Connelly displays an admirable facility with the nuances of the postwar style, but the band seems restrained to the point of mutedness. I suppose this could be a production problem: these puppies might well transmogrify into rock 'n' roll animals once they hit the stage. DW

3 PM NIGEL MACK & BLUES ATTACK

Harpist and guitarist Nigel Mack (ne Nigel Mackenzie) hails from Saskatchewan, where he discovered blues through the rock-infused sounds of Johnny Winter and Paul Butterfield. Since the early 90s he's gigged around Chicago on occasion, but he remains best known north of the border. DW

4:30 PM NITRO BLUES BAND

Crunchy, unimaginative blues rock from Dayton, Ohio. Appropriately named guitarist Don Louderback is the bandleader; his wife, Gayle, provides the overwrought vocals. DW

6 PM ROB STONE & THE C-NOTES

Rob Stone is best known for his harp work with ace percussionist Sam Lay, but in 1999 he released a CD under his own name, No Worries (Marquis), and since then he's been playing his own gigs too. His style is based on the postwar Chicago sound pioneered by Little Walter, but he's also wont to pump up the volume with squalls, skitters, and trills that hark back to his days as a blues rocker on the Colorado biker-bar circuit. DW

ROUTE 66 ROADHOUSE

3:30 PM MYTH, LEGEND, AND

HISTORY: THE MUSIC

OF BLIND WILLIE

mctell, KOKOMO arnold, ISHMON BRACEY, and

RUBE LACEY

This session will be a scholarly inquiry into the lyrics and music of four blues artists born 100 years ago, two from Georgia (McTell, Arnold) and two from Mississippi (Bracey, Lacey). The discussion will be led by historian Benjamin Filene, author of Romancing the Folk: Public Memory and American Roots Music, and David Evans, a musician and ethnomusicologist from Memphis State University (see today's Juke Joint listing). Evans will supplement the discussion by performing examples of the music being talked about. DW

5:30 PM BLUES IN THE SCHOOLS

This event is cosponsored by the city's Blues in the Schools program and the Blues Heaven Foundation, the not-for-profit organization founded by Willie Dixon to promote the blues as a living legacy. Featured will be bluesman, playwright, and poet Fernando Jones, who sometimes works with Blues in the Schools, along with some of the schoolkids he mentors in his similarly inclined Blues Kids of America program. DW

JUKE JOINT

1 PM DAVID EVANS

Acoustic guitarist David Evans is also a music prof at Memphis State University and a widely published folklorist and blues historian. Among his best-known works are Tommy Johnson, his 1971 biography of the Mississippi blues pioneer, and Big Road Blues, a 1982 study that placed the work of living acoustic blues artists in the context of southern blues traditions. Evans's onstage demeanor is somewhat dry, but his years of fieldwork and painstaking exegeses of old records have helped him to become proficient in a wide variety of acoustic styles, and he delights in seasoning the stew with tantalizing historical tidbits. DW

2 PM ERIC NODEN

Guitarist Eric Noden, an instructor at the Old Town School of Folk Music, doesn't hide his academic side--he can replicate, note for note, the work of southern acoustic blues, folk, and jug-band artists both famous and obscure, and he'll introduce a rollicking ragtime stomper with a scholarly overview of the musical and social context in which the style and its practitioners thrived in the 20s and 30s. But unlike his predecessor on this bill, he plays this old stuff with an enthusiasm verging on abandon. DW

3 PM ERNIE HAWKINS

Ernie Hawkins studied under Piedmont fingerpicking master the Reverend Gary Davis, and his style, like Davis's, is characterized by furious, ecstatic interplay between multiple treble and bass lines; he's also an accomplished slide guitarist. His latest disc, Bluesified (Say Mo'), features spot-on re-creations of three Davis classics ("Slow Drag," "Crucifixion," and "I Belong to the Band"), plus a version of "Amazing Grace" that weaves together a straightforward interpretation of the venerated hymn with references to no less than three separate Blind Willie McTell numbers: "Savannah Mama," "Travelin' Blues," and the blues-tinged version of "Amazing Grace" he recorded for the Library of Congress archives in 1940. DW

4 PM FRUTELAND JACKSON

On his most recent disc, last year's I Claim Nothing but the Blues (Electro-Fi), acoustic traditionalist Fruteland Jackson has expanded his palette to include exotic kitsch ("Mango Bango"), and his voice, once slightly timid, has broadened into a vibrato-rich wail. He's especially adept at applying his chosen style to contemporary subjects. DW

5 PM uHONEYBOY EDWARDS

David "Honeyboy" Edwards spent the 1930s performing throughout the south in the company of such Delta masters as Big Joe Williams, Charley Patton, and Robert Johnson and in 1942 came to the attention of Alan Lomax, who was making field recordings for the Library of Congress. In the early 50s he did some work for ARC in Houston; he also recorded in Chicago for Chess, although these sides were unissued at the time. Since the 60s his work has been issued and reissued on an array of revivalist labels. Now 85, Edwards has a pretty loose conception of timing and structure, but he rips the notes from his fretboard with precise, almost predatory force and his raspy bellow can still raise the hairs on the back of your neck. DW

CROSSROADS

2 PM JIMMY BURNS

Instead of riding the coattails of his brother Eddie, a noted Detroit bluesman and cohort of John Lee Hooker 15 years his elder, Jimmy Burns went his own way early in his career. Born in Dublin, Mississippi, he came to Chicago as a teen in the mid-50s and sang doo-wop with the Medallionaires before launching a career as a soul singer--his 1964 debut single for USA, "Forget It," was a tough midtempo soul-blues stunner with tight horns. He finally embraced the blues during the late 70s, but it took until 1996, when Delmark issued his first full-length set, Leaving Here Walking, for the blues world at large to notice him. (Meanwhile, from the late 80s on, he kept busy operating his west-side barbecue stand, Uncle Mickey's.) That album tried to shoehorn his sweet voice into raw 12-bar blues, but his 1999 follow-up, Night Time Again, played to his strengths, giving him the opportunity to belt out some good old Chicago soul. BD

4 PM DAVE SPECTER'S ORGAN SUMMIT featuring CHRIS FOREMAN & ROB WATERS with JOHN BRUMBACH

Guitarist Dave Specter has always folded the influence of jazz fretsmen Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery into his crisp, concise lead phrasing, but never more so than on his 2000 Delmark album, Speculatin', an all-instrumental affair that's as much Blue Note as blues. Since he's never made a habit of singing on the bandstand, Specter has employed a series of solid vocalists over the years to front his Bluebirds, who cook up a swinging west side-Texas-west coast hybrid, but when he works the jazz side of the tracks, as he will here, vocals are superfluous. Instead he'll feature two exceptional organists: Rob Waters was Lonnie Brooks's keyboardist more than two decades ago; his fat Hammond B-3 figured prominently on Specter's last CD. Chris Foreman is a south-side jazz giant with his own impressive blues credentials--he guested on Albert Collins's 1983 Alligator album Don't Lose Your Cool. Saxist John Brumbach is another longtime Specter associate who's equally comfortable on jazz and soul terrain. BD

FRONT PORCH

12:30 PM BLUES IN THE SCHOOLS TRIBUTE TO BLIND WILLIE McTELL

Guitarist and teacher Eric Noden (see today's Juke Joint listing) leads a group of students from Stone Academy in a tribute to Blind Willie McTell, the Atlanta-based guitarist whose recording career spanned almost three decades (from 1927 to 1956) and whose repertoire included everything from originals like the epic "Statesboro Blues" to jivey renditions of pop, ragtime, and vaudeville standards. DW

1 PM ERNIE HAWKINS

See today's Juke Joint listing.

2:30 PM LAST CHANCE JUG BAND

The southern jug-band tradition originated in Louisville around the turn of the last century, but the most famous jug bands--Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers, the Memphis Jug Band, Jed Davenport's Beale Street Jug Band, and others--are associated with Memphis. A tradition of jug-band revivalism there dates back at least to the New Beale Street Sheiks, a band of shaggy bohos assembled by the young Jim Dickinson in 1964. Last Chance Jug

Band features David Evans (see today's Juke Joint listing) on vocals, guitar, and kazoo; the group has been a hit for years at festivals and folk concerts

in the midsouth. DW

4 PM MIGHTY MO RODGERS

Keyboardist Maurice "Mighty Mo" Rodgers is an R & B and blues journeyman--he worked shows and sessions on the west coast in the late 60s and early 70s and produced Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee's 1973 electric soul album, Sonny & Brownie, for A&M. His own debut, 1999's Blues Is My Wailin' Wall (Blue Thumb), uneasily blends smooth-funk bass lines and atmospheric production (deep echo,

whining slide guitars, burbling

keyboards) with earnestly erudite lyrics. Rodgers's grainy singing lends urgency to his expoundings on topics ranging from the historical link between oppression and blues heritage ("Took Away the Drum") to more recent political atrocities ("Tuskegee Blues," "The Kennedy Song") to the travails of a sensitive guy torn between following the blues muse and being a mensch ("No Regrets"). Bring your thinking cap, leave your dancing shoes at home. DW

5:30 PM DEVIL IN A WOODPILE with HONEYBOY EDWARDS

This set pairs Edwards with washboardist Rick "Cookin'" Sherry and his slightly goofy pan-Americana jug band. On their own, the Woodpile crew's rehashing of vintage novelty tunes and good-time blues can get old pretty quickly, but they're the ideal backup band for Edwards: they have an uncanny knack for anticipating his eccentric time changes and turnarounds, and he seems both reassured and pushed to new heights of improvisational freedom by their solid rhythms. DW

PETRILLO MUSIC SHELL

6 PM uJODY WILLIAMS

The reemergence of guitarist Jody Williams after a three-decade hiatus has delighted fans worldwide--he's just returned from his second European sojourn in less than two years. Best known for his work with the likes of Bo Diddley ("Who Do You Love") and Howlin' Wolf ("Evil," "Forty-four," etc) in the 50s,

Williams also recorded some classic sides of his own--most notably "Lucky Lou," which served as the template for Otis Rush's "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)," and "You May," which included a solo that Rush appropriated virtually note for note on Buddy Guy's 1958 Artistic debut, "Sit and Cry (the Blues)." His fretwork balances linear precision with tonal rawness, bringing rich texture and exploratory drive to 12-bar blues and more pop-oriented material alike, and he sings with equal parts gritty emotion and smooth sophistication. He's still in the process of regaining his full powers, but he sounds closer every time I hear him, and his band here includes a skintight horn section led by legendary Chicago soul saxophonist Willie Henderson. DW

7:10 PM WILLIE KENT & THE GENTS with BONNIE LEE and MARY LANE

No Chicago blues bassist holds a groove steadier than Willie Kent. He's been at it since the late 1950s, when he moved to the west side from Mississippi, leading the band Sugar Bear & the Bee Hives in the 70s and finally cracking the lucrative north-side circuit the following decade. He signed with local blues and jazz bastion Delmark in 1991, cutting Ain't It Nice that year and following it up with several more records emphasizing his insistence on tight ensemble work. The Gents are not into extended solos--the song comes first. Here Kent, a powerhouse singer in his own right, will be joined by vocalists Bonnie Lee and Mary Lane. Kent and Lee have guested on one another's Delmark CDs, and Bonnie has gigged regularly with Willie over the years; she came to the Windy City from Texas in 1958 and hooked up with the late piano patriarch Sunnyland Slim in the late 60s. Lane, a seasoned west-side vet who was married to and sang with guitarist Morris Pejoe before finally making her own recording debut in 1997, comes from Arkansas, where she honed her unpretentious delivery with Robert Nighthawk and Joe Hill Louis. BD

:30 PM CHUCK BERRY

When did Chuck Berry stop caring? These days the man who established the primary vocabulary for rock guitar with hits like "Maybellene," "Roll Over Beethoven," and "Johnny B. Goode" bounds onstage sporting garish 70s attire and a woefully out-of-tune ax--and, as if to guarantee bumbling incompetence from the unrehearsed pickup bands he habitually relies on, he often performs his songs in different keys than the ones they were recorded in. You can actually see him checking his watch so that he doesn't grant the crowd a single minute more than he's contracted for. What a shame. BD

friDAY, JUNE 8

BEST BUY SHOWCASE

NOON uWILLIE KING

It's seriously wrong that an elder statesman like Alabama's Willie King is opening the day for a parade of young blues-rock pretenders on the smallest stage at the festival--but if you can't catch this eloquent musician and spokesman for justice in a more dignified context at one of his other Blues Fest appearances (see tomorrow's Juke Joint and Front Porch listings), you can start your day off right by hearing him here. DW

1:30 PM STEEPWATER BAND

According to their bio, the Steepwater Band "cut their teeth jamming . . . in a house just outside of the city and quickly headed for the clubs." Too quickly, it would appear: their bombastic approach to 12-bar blues is heavy on recycled riffs and weak on inspiration, and their cowboy-hatted "outlaw" shtick only accentuates the vapidness they try to hide with amplification. DW

3 PM THIRD STONE

No information available at press time.

4:30 PM ROCKIN' JOHNNY BAND

Rockin' Johnny Burgin has become the guitarist of choice for many of Chicago's older blues artists, despite his irritating tendency to play out of tune on their recordings (e.g., Tail Dragger's 1999 Delmark release, American People). His command of the postwar Windy City lick book is unassailable, but judging from his own Delmark discography--a patchwork of ideas borrowed from sources as diverse as Muddy Waters, Magic Sam, and John Lee Hooker--he's still searching for a musical identity of his own. DW

6 PM NOAH & THE stRATOCATS

Note for note, there's a lot of musicianship on display here: guitarist Noah Wotherspoon's Hendrix-and-Vaughan-style blues rock is refreshingly devoid of macho posturing, and his Stratocats demonstrate an admirable facility with funk and jazz-fusion structures as well as the usual lump-da-lump shuffle. The last time I heard them (last year, at their third consecutive Blues Fest appearance), they had yet to pull something original from their disparate influences, but give 'em time: Wotherspoon isn't even legal yet. DW

ROUTE 66 ROADHOUSE

3 PM THE LEGACY OF THE RECORDING INDUSTRY

Pioneering blues historian, writer, and record producer Samuel Charters and Alligator Records honcho Bruce Iglauer will participate in this panel discussion, conducted in celebration of the 30th anniversaries of Alligator and the Boston-based Rounder label and the 50th anniversary of the Vanguard label. Blues and jazz radio commentator Bob Porter will moderate. DW

5 PM CLASSIC CHICAGO BLUES: COMBO BLUES

Veteran Chicago drummer Sam Lay (see today's Juke Joint listing) will join guitarist Chris James and bassist Dave Myers in this workshop and demonstration on classic postwar Chicago blues rhythmic techniques. The session will be moderated by Rob Stone (see Thursday's Best Buy Showcase listing).

JUKE JOINT

2 PM SAM LAY

Sam Lay is one of Chicago's most respected blues percussionists: his credits include stints with Howlin' Wolf, Jimmy Reed, and Muddy Waters, and he helped develop the "double shuffle" ride cymbal technique now favored by many blues-rock drummers. In the mid-60s he anchored the trailblazing blues-rock aggregation headed by Paul Butterfield, and through the years he's also led groups of his own (heard most recently on the Telarc label). His guitar work, which will be featured in this set, is less famous, but it's become a staple of his stage act; he draws inspiration from sources ranging from trad Texas patriarch Lightnin' Hopkins to Chicago's Delta-bred pantheon of postwar innovators. DW

3 PM JOANNA CONNOR & ANTHONY PALMER

Guitarist and vocalist Joanna Connor (see today's Crossroads listing) is paired here with her longtime second guitarist Anthony Palmer. Palmer, a Chicago native, worked with soul-blues artists like Bobby Rush and Little Johnny Christian before joining forces with Connor in the late 80s. He brings a welcome smidgen of sophistication to her hard-rocking sound, and in years of playing together they've developed an impressive empathy. It's often buried under distortion and overamplification when the entire band is on hand, but in this rare duet setting it should emerge. DW

4 PM magic slim

Magic Slim (see today's Front Porch listing) goes it alone. BD

5 PM MATTHEW SKOLLER & TAD ROBINSON

See today's Crossroads listings.

CROSSROADS STAGE

1:30 PM TAD ROBINSON BAND featuring ALEX SCHULTZ

Blue-eyed soul singers were everywhere in the 1960s, but they're depressingly scarce now--and they've degenerated from the magnificent Wayne Cochran to the execrable Michael Bolton. Tad Robinson's a good candidate to revive the tradition: equally conversant with vintage Arthur Alexander deep soul and low-down 12-bar blues, he's also a concise harmonica player who knows how to let the music breathe. Originally from New York, Robinson surfaced in the midwest in the early 80s with the Hesitation Blues Band and sang with Dave Specter's Bluebirds before breaking out with his own stirring 1994 Delmark album, One to Infinity. Guitarist Alex Schultz and Robinson first teamed up in their teens and are currently working on a new CD; Schultz has also lent his swinging licks to LA blues harpists Rod Piazza and William Clarke. BD

2 PM MATTHEW SKOLLER

Harpist Matthew Skoller came to Chicago in 1987 and played with J.W. Williams & the Chi-Town Hustlers and Big Daddy Kinsey & the Kinsey Report before forming his own outfit in 1992; he's backed Kinsey, H-Bomb Ferguson, Larry Garner, John Primer, and most recently Koko Taylor in the studio. Skoller has also made two albums of his own, 1996's Bone to Pick With You and the more recent Shoulder to the Wind. He's a deft technician, channeling all the right influences (especially Rice Miller), and an adequate singer. But onstage his showboating--he bounces around, bobbing his head manically in midsolo like a pint-size clone of 1970s-era James Cotton--can be distracting. BD

3:30 PM EoMOT RaSUN

Eomot RaSun left Mississippi for Chicago in the early 50s, but only since the early 80s has he been blowing his harp around town. He started out sitting in with various bands on Maxwell Street and eventually his reputation spread to the north side, where he shared stages with the likes of Pinetop Perkins and Jimmy Rogers. Although he cites Carey Bell as an early influence, RaSun favors a melodically elemental but tonally rich style that evokes older harpists: like Rice Miller he uses tongue stops, flutters, warbles, off-the-beat interjections, and other tricks to tweak even the most seemingly simple lines into new shapes. His vocal timbre is a tad weak, but I'll take it over the usual histrionics and bathos any day. DW

4:30 PM JOANNA CONNOR

Joanna Connor's slide work is a fierce combination

of rawness and precision, and her lyrics, sung in a leather-lunged soprano wail, often display a disarmingly tender poetic sensibility. But her unfortunate approach to live performance is to pull out all

the stops all the time. That might be fine for the drink-till-you-puke crowd, but Connor, who earned

her stripes under venerated oldheads like slide master Johnny Littlejohn, ought to know that bombast

is a poor substitute for art. DW

FRONT PORCH

NOON THE SONGS OF BESSIE SMITH, MA RAINEY, MAMIE SMITH, AND CHIPPIE HILL featuring ERWIN HELFER & KATHeRINE DAVIS AND THE STONE ACADEMY SEReNADERS

Local pianist and educator Erwin Helfer is committed to maintaining the blues legacy of his instrument--not the namby-pamby one-handed synthesizer doodlings that pass for keyboard solos nowadays, but real two-fisted, thundering boogies and atmospheric after-hours pieces, played the way Albert Ammons and Big Maceo used to do 'em. And vocalist Katherine Davis, his frequent collaborator, is a good match, blessed with mighty lungs and an engagingly upbeat onstage demeanor. The two will undoubtedly do justice to the 20s blues chestnuts on this program; they'll be accompanied by a group of Stone Academy students.

1:30 PM THE SONGS OF WILLIE

DIXON featuring

BILLY BRANCH & ROY

HYTOWER with THE

GRANT ACADEMY

BLUES BABIES

In the 50s and 60s Willie Dixon was ubiquitous on the local recording scene, working for Chess and Cobra Records as a producer and session bassist (he slapped his upright on many of Chuck Berry's classics) and writing a slew of seminal blues songs for himself and everybody else. Harpist and Blues in the Schools mainstay Billy Branch (see tonight's Petrillo Music Shell listing) toured the world with the burly bassist late in his career and knows his catalog well. Chicago-based guitarist and actor Roy Hytower has no direct link to Dixon, but he's portrayed Muddy Waters, Otis Redding, and Jimmy Reed in local theater productions, and he'll probably do Dixon just fine. Grant Academy's student band the Blues Babies will demonstrate how well they've learned their lessons. BD

3 PM JOHNNIE MAE DUNSON

Vocalist Johnnie Mae Dunson wrote songs for Jimmy Reed, including "I Wanna Be Loved," "I'm Going Upside Your Head," and "Life Won't Last Me Long"; she also played drums and sang, with his band and others, on the local circuit during those years. After Reed's death, in 1976, she retreated into obscurity until 1998 when, at age 77, she was coaxed back into performing (at a Maxwell Street benefit, which she claimed was the first occasion for which she'd left the house in ten years). Last year she released her first full-length album, Big Boss Lady, which includes updates of "Upside Your Head" and Howlin' Wolf's "Evil," along with more recent originals. It's received favorable reviews, but to really appreciate Dunson you've got to catch her in person: she delivers her witty wordplay with a highly entertaining blend of imperious severity and little-girl coyness. DW

4:15 PM "philadelphia"

JERRY RICKS

Guitarist Jerry Ricks came of age in Philly in the 50s and early 60s, playing alongside "rediscovered" bluesmen like Son House and Mississippi John Hurt. Through most of the 70s and 80s he lived and worked in Europe, but about ten years ago he returned to the States, moved to the Delta, and released a couple discs through the revivalist Rooster Blues label. Ricks augments his pristine technique with full emotional commitment: whether moaning Skip James's harrowingly stark "Special Rider Blues" or skipping to a quick-picked fingerfest like his own "Missouri River Blues," he makes the blues feel relevant to contemporary

life and concerns. DW

5:45 PM uMAGIC SLIM

& THE TEARDROPS

If you're after meat-and-potatoes Chicago blues without a speck of pretension, this towering guitarist--born Morris Holt in Mississippi, he was given his stage moniker by his childhood pal Magic Sam--is your man. His gruff vocal roar and barbed-wire guitar sound support a repertoire of hundreds of numbers, though he does have his favorites: "Mustang Sally" gets ridden almost every night. Slim began recording in 1966 with a surreal single called "Scuffling" for the tiny local Ja-Wes imprint (he sings about greasing his feet and sliding into the promised land, accumulating cigarette butts and chewing tobacco along the way), and now it seems like he cranks out a new CD every few months. In a typical club setting, it can be tough to get the big lug up on the stand--sometimes it appears he'd rather let anyone sit in than actually get down to business. But he should be fired up for his two fest slots, especially since he doesn't play here as much as he used to--Slim moved to comparatively sedate Lincoln, Nebraska, a few years ago. BD

PETRILLO MUSIC SHELL

6 PM BILLY BRANCH TURNS 50 with SONS OF

BLUES & BARBARA LeSHOURE

Billy Branch can no longer rightly be hailed as Chicago's top young blues harpist. This set celebrates his 50th birthday--and even in the blues world, where it can take decades to be taken seriously, he's achieved revered-elder status. Branch nevertheless remains one of his humble instrument's leading innovators: he can cut loose with volleys of lickety-split note bends, then segue into an ultratraditional stomp without missing a beat. The gravel-voiced Branch has worked countless sessions since the 70s in service of Chicago's blues royalty, but though he's made albums of his own for Red Beans, Verve, and House of Blues, he's yet to lay down his definitive recorded statement. Barbara LeShoure, who'll join Branch and his Sons of Blues here, is not so special a guest: her vocal delivery is generic and so is her repertoire. BD

7:20 PM uROBERT JR. LOCKWOOD

Mentored in the Delta by his mom's boyfriend, Robert Johnson, guitarist Robert Jr. Lockwood first recorded in Chicago in 1941, then promptly returned to Helena, Arkansas, where he appeared for a time with Rice Miller on the famed King Biscuit Time show on KFFA. Later, back in Chicago, he worked as a session man at Chess and recorded under his own name for several other labels. His lyrics echo Johnson's paranoid obsession with erotic betrayal, and he's a master of the Delta style--his 86-year-old fingers remain dexterous, and any roughness or

graininess in his voice merely heightens the

drama. Depending on his mood, however, this lifelong admirer of jump blues and jazz is as likely to spend an evening spinning out

amiable versions of pop-jazz standards like "Misty" as he is to channel Robert Sr.'s tormented spirit. DW

:30 PM uIKE TURNER & THE KINGS OF RHYTHM with OLIVER SAIN

The most exciting booking of the festival is Ike Turner, a too-long underrated genius of R & B, soul, rock, and, arguably, even surf music: he was one of the original whammy-bar madmen. In 1951, he and his Kings of Rhythm entered Sam Phillips's Memphis studio and cut "Rocket 88," the fuel-injected boogie classic often cited as the first rock 'n' roll record, then went on to record a series of torrid sides for Federal that brilliantly blended down-home rawness and urban cool. In Chicago in the late 50s, they invaded the Cobra studio on West Roosevelt to cut such incendiary masterpieces as "Matchbox" and "You've Got to Lose," goad Otis Rush into apocalyptic fury on "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)" and "Double Trouble," and coax from Betty Everett some of the toughest, most heartfelt R & B she ever waxed ("Tell Me Darling," "I'll Weep No More").

By 1960 Turner had transformed vocalist Annie Mae Bullock into Tina Turner and launched the wildly successful Ike & Tina Turner Revue; in 1976, Tina left him, and a decade later would spend many pages in her autobiography describing the years of physical and mental abuse she suffered at his hands. For some critics, that was enough to consign Ike to permanent infamy. His career and his life both hit the skids, and by 1991, when the couple was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he was in jail. He's been testing the comeback waters since he got out, and in the late 90s he released My Bluescountry (Mystic), which hinted at the old spark but was marred by vapid production, unimaginative material, and abrasive vocals by his wife Jeanette. But this spring, at age 69, he released Here and Now (Ikon), a propulsive brew of twangy fretboard fireworks and keyboard prestidigitation--and recent performances with his fresh crew of Kings have received rave reviews.

Saint Louis saxophonist Oliver Sain, who'll join the band for this set, is almost as towering a figure as Turner. His own band in the 50s, like Turner's, was a full-scale R & B revue--it launched the career of Fontella Bass, among others--and he also led Little Milton's band while he was in Saint Louis. In the late 60s Sain opened the Archway recording studio, where through the years he's recorded artists ranging from the smooth-harmony vocal group the Montclairs to free-jazz outcats like Julius Hemphill, and in the mid-70s he recorded a boatload of fierce boogity-shoe funk for the A-Bet label. The musical connection between him and Turner is tenuous: the two are old friends, but they had never played together until a few years ago. DW

saturDAY, JUNE 9

BEST BUY SHOWCASE

NOON DOñA OXFORD

Doña Oxford may be best known as Shemekia Copeland's keyboardist, but she's led her own band in New York for years. On her 1999 debut as a leader, Rowena Said . . . (Fountainbleu), she rises above the contemporary blues hordes by combining her trademark two-fisted keyboard style with vocals as sultry and nuanced on ballads as they are raucous on rockers. She's proficient in New Orleans second-line strut ("Down in New Orleans"), hard boogie ("I'm on Fire"), and deep-pocket Chicago-style shuffle (the haunting title tune), but she's at her best when she lets down her guard and shows some vulnerability, as on the aching ballad "Red, White & Blues." DW

1:30 PM ROBERT CHARELS

Singer Robert Charels has garnered commendations from the likes of B.B. King and Big Jack Johnson--who told him, "First time I heard you, I would've sworn you was black!" His soaring tenor is beefy but supple, and his unforced phrasing is a rare treat, especially on smooth, jazzy fare like "Babe & a Half," from 1997's Deception in Your Eyes (Bahoomba). His most recent release, Metropolitan Blue (Fountainbleu), graced by versatile sidemen like "Sax" Gordon Beadle and guitarist Duke Robillard, showcases Charels at his most tuneful and tasteful: only on a few cuts, such as the hard-driving "Bop All Night Long," does he really let loose. He has a reputation, however, as an incendiary live performer. DW

3 PM HOWARD & THE

WHITE BOYS

African-American bassist and vocalist Howard McCullum leads this ponderous blues-rock band, which even on erstwhile soul classics like Sam & Dave's "I Thank You" and James Brown's "Sex Machine" validates every cranky purist's stereotype of derivative, lead-footed "white boy" blues bands. DW

4:30 PM JON PARIS

Jon Paris spent about a decade playing bass in Johnny Winter's touring band; he's appeared on recordings by Winter, Bob Dylan, Ron Wood, and Peter Tosh, among others. His sole outing as a leader, 1995's Rock the Universe (Fountainbleu), is a high-octane journey through a set of molar-rattling originals ("Rock-Rock-Roxanne," "Blues This Bad," "Born to Rock") and a handful of standards (Otis Rush's "Double Trouble," Chuck Berry's "Deep Feeling"). DW

6 PM RONNIE BAKER BROOKS

Guitarist Ronnie Baker Brooks played his first gig at the age of nine, when his father, Lonnie, invited him to sit in with his band at Pepper's on the south side. He went full-time with his dad's outfit in the mid-80s, but since 1999 he's been leading his own regular group. On his debut CD, Golddigger (Watchdog), his piercing lead tone and sometimes frantic speed make clear his debt to blues rockers like Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, but on more introspective fare, such as the tender ballad "I'll See You Again," his melodies reveal a sensual grace and thoughtful maturity. DW

ROUTE 66 ROADHOUSE

3 PM LOUIS ARMSTRONG

CENTENNIAL SALUTE

featuring BURGESS

GARDNER & KATHeRINE DAVIS

This Armstrong tribute, one of two at this year's Blues Fest, features trumpeter Burgess Gardner. A former Horace Silver sideman, Gardner leads his own local jazz orchestra, and in recent years he has done session work for blues artists Koko Taylor and Otis Clay. For more on Katherine Davis, see Friday's Front Porch listing. DW

5:10 PM HOUSE MUSIC: THE

ORIGINS AND MEANING, FROM BOOGIE-WOOGIE

TO HIP-HOP AND BEYOND

This presentation, produced by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, features Chicago-based

pianists Detroit Junior and Barrelhouse Chuck. Detroit Junior came to prominence under Motor City stalwarts like Amos Milburn and John Lee Hooker in the 50s; later, in Chicago, he played in Howlin' Wolf's band. He's a flamboyant soloist and also a gifted songwriter, known for novelty numbers like "Call My Job," a 1978 hit for Albert King, and "If I Hadn't Been High." Barrelhouse Chuck studied under elder statesmen Sunnyland Slim and Little Brother Montgomery; his style still reflects their influence, but he's become adept at twisting time-tested ideas and riffs into new and strikingly original patterns and shapes. Their trad sounds will be placed in the hands of mixmaster Jimmy Tillman II--son of blues percussionist Jimmy Tillman--who'll demonstrate how even the rootsiest blues forms can be linked with hip-hop and its offspring. DW

JUKE JOINT

1 PM "philadelphia"

JERRY RICKS

See Friday's Front Porch listing.

2 PM EDDY CLEARWATER

See tonight's Petrillo Music Shell listing.

3 PM BEMIJI TILLMAN TRIO

Bemiji Tillman, son of blues percussionist Jimmy Tillman, is a multi-instrumentalist who's currently developing a studio project he calls Twang--a mix of keyboards, guitars, and electronics designed to fuse blues with techno. Here, though, he'll bring only a guitar and a pair of sidemen to pay tribute to the south-side blues tradition that inspired him early on. DW

4 PM uWILLIE KING

Willie King is a legend in the juke joints around Old Memphis, Alabama, where he's lived for most of his 58 years. He's also a veteran activist and community educator who exemplifies the often-cited but infrequently realized role of the bluesman as griot. King's "struggling songs," as he calls them, are tales of oppression and hardship meant to goad his listeners into action; melodically and rhythmically influenced by the work of Howlin' Wolf and John Lee Hooker, they're also irresistably danceable. He's captured at his best on Freedom Creek (Rooster Blues), recorded live in early 2000 at Bettie's Place, a juke in Prairie Point, Mississippi, where King holds court on weekends. DW

CROSSROADS

1 PM uALBERTA ADAMS

International renown came remarkably late for Alberta Adams. She's always been popular in her hometown of Detroit, as a singer and early on as a dancer, but she didn't break out until she was well into her 70s, when most artists are winding down their careers. Adams performed almost nightly on the thriving Motor City R & B circuit in the 40s and 50s and toured with such luminaries as Duke Ellington and Louis Jordan, but her only notable recording until recently was a 1953 remake of Memphis Slim's "Messin' Around With the Blues," cut for Chess. In 1999 she finally got a chance to record a full-length, Born With the Blues, on Cannonball, and last year she followed it up with Say Baby Say; both feature splendid input from another late bloomer, guitarist Johnnie Bassett, and sweet swinging horns. Adams herself may no longer be able to cut a rug, but the audience for this fairly rare Chicago appearance should be hoppin'. BD

2:30 PM HOWARD SCOTT &

THE WORLD BAND

with JESSIE CLAY

and JOYCE LAWSON

Howard Scott sings in a corrugated rasp that often verges on the atonal, but buoyed by his brother, inventive lead guitarist Walter, and the tight riffs and rhythms of the World Band, he manages to summon both grace and power from his unlikely instrument. Jessie Clay is a good songwriter--he penned Tyrone Davis's 1991 hit "Mom's Apple Pie"--but in performance he tends to overemote, and his intonation can be shaky. Joyce Lawson, though, is worth checking out. In the early 80s she walked away from a promising soul-blues career to sing gospel; she returned in 1997 with Today I Sing the Blues (Evejim), which garnered significant airplay on soul-blues radio. She's just released a follow-up, Chapter III (Phat Sound). DW

4:15 PM LEE ROY PARNELL

Singer and slide guitarist Lee Roy Parnell, who had a string of Top Ten country hits in the early 90s, might seem like a weird choice for Blues Fest. Parnell grew up in Texas, enthralled by western-swing pioneer Bob Wills, who was a friend of the family; in his teens, he did a stint with Kinky Friedman's gonzo swing band the Texas Jewboys. But he also immersed himself in the styles western swing draws from, including blues and gospel: in 1997, his version of Son House's harrowing "John the Revelator" on the album Peace in the Valley: A Country Music Journey Through Gospel (Arista) garnered a Country Music Association nomination for Vocal Event of the Year. His new Tell the Truth, which comes out this week on Vanguard, is being billed as a return to his roots--a blend of blues, roadhouse rock, country soul, and gospel that features guest appearances by fellow Texan Delbert McClinton, new traditionalist Keb' Mo', blues-rock vet Bonnie Bramlett, and the hundred-voice Mississippi Mass Choir. DW

FRONT PORCH

1 PM uWILLIE KING

See today's Juke Joint listing.

3 PM uSUNNYLAND SLIM

MEMORIAL PIANO SET

featuring PINETOP

PERKINS & IKE TURNER

In the early 40s in Clarksdale, Mississippi, young Izear Luster Turner Jr. saw Pinetop Perkins in rehearsal with Rice Miller and his King Biscuit Boys. "After I saw Pinetop play," Turner told Juke Blues magazine in 1997, "it made me want to play like that." Today Perkins's musical imagination, rooted in straightforward 12-bar blues and jump blues, remains vivid, and he's retained a youthful dexterity. And Turner, who went on to a tumultuous career as a rock and soul pioneer (see Friday's Petrillo Music Shell listing), can still play "like that" too. No doubt these two admire each other deeply, but don't be deceived: this will be a convocation of gladiators. DW

4:30 PM EDDIE KING & THE

SWAMP BEES

Guitarist and vocalist Eddie King worked the west-side circuit in the late 50s and early 60s with notables like harpist Little Mac Simmons and pianist Detroit Junior, and recorded on his own for local labels such as Conduc and JOB. Those discs are now considered classics, although limited distribution wrecked their chances of becoming hits at the time; since 1985, he's done a bit better, recording modestly successful CDs for Double Trouble and Roesch. Now as then, he plays with a crisp attack and tough tone, seasoning his raw leads with savory Memphis soul chording and proto-funk rhythmic drive. DW

6 PM HOMESICK JAMES

with bob STROGER and WILLIE "BIG EYES" SMITH

Homesick James has been playing the blues for seven decades. He scuffled around the south in the 20s and 30s; later he was a mainstay on the thriving mid-century Memphis scene; he worked, off and on, with his cousin Elmore James until James's death in 1963. His own 50s-era sides on labels like Chance, USA, and Atomic H showcase the burgeoning postwar urban style at its most raw and exhilarating. Homesick has never really slowed down: recent outings on Evidence and Earwig, among other labels, have shown him still in command of a vivid poetic sensibility and a potent, keening slide style. His onstage moods are notoriously unpredictable, but when he's in harness his physical dexterity, the field-holler intensity of his voice, and his indefatigable lyric imagination are nothing short of astonishing. He'll be accompanied by a pair of veteran rhythm men who'll need every ounce of their metronomic prowess to hang on: Bob Stroger, who has anchored the bands of Sunnyland Slim and Otis Rush, among others, is one of Chicago's most

respected straight-ahead blues bassists; Willie "Big Eyes" Smith played drums in Muddy Waters's touring band on and off between 1961 and 1980; he's one of the last living masters of the propulsive but delicately textured shuffle style that helped define Chicago blues. DW

PETRILLO MUSIC SHELL

5 PM uEDDY CLEARWATER &

GENE BARGE with

sandra hall

This set celebrates a half century apiece in the blues business for lanky southpaw guitarist Eddy "the Chief" Clearwater and tenor saxist Gene "Daddy G" Barge. Both men have in fact succeeded on the business side: Barge, who made his reputation with jabbing sax solos on Chuck Willis's '57 smash "CC Rider" and Gary U.S. Bonds's rocking "Quarter to Three" in '61, moved to Chicago in '64, working as a saxist, arranger, and producer at Chess Records; these days he works with the Chicago Rhythm & Blues Kings on a semiregular basis and runs a gospel label, Thisit Records. West-side pioneer Clearwater--who earned his nickname because he sometimes wears a headdress onstage--recently opened his own blues club in Wicker Park and runs his own record label, Cleartone. One of his signings, Atlanta-based vocalist Sandra Hall, will guest on this set. She's a formidable bellower, but on her most recent CD, Miss Red Riding Hood, she's strongest on moody, world-weary ballads like "Perfect Lie" and "Travelin' the Blues." BD & DW

6:20 PM uMALACHI THOMPSON

freebop band 47TH STREET JAZZ AND BLUES REVUE

Historically the Blues Festival has underemphasized the link between blues and jazz; this Louis Armstrong tribute assembled by "freebop" trumpeter Malachi Thompson should help rectify that. It's a suite consisting of four movements: "Theme" is an impressionistic soundscape meant to evoke life in turn-of-the-century New Orleans; "Poor Little Louis" is a dirge that echoes the oppression and poverty of Armstrong's childhood; "Chicago Train," which chug-chug-chugs its way north, brings Armstrong to Chicago to join King Oliver's band; and "Struttin' Down 47th Street" portrays young Louis, unleashed and swinging on the streets of Thompson's native Bronzeville. The arrangements are more Ellington than Hot Five-era Armstrong, but Thompson and his Freebop Band--reedman Ari Brown, pianist Kirk Brown, bassist Harrison Bankhead, and percussionist Leon Joyce--solo with that ineffable fusion of emotional fire and precise artistry that characterized Satchmo at his most majestic. Vocalist Katherine Davis interprets Thompson's lyrics with an appropriate blend of jubilance and stateliness. DW

7:30 PM uMEL WAITERS

Mel Waiters is yet another dynamic soul-blues crooner who's found a home at Malaco Records, the vaunted "Last Soul Company," based in Jackson, Mississippi. Waiters's 1997 album for the Malaco subsidiary Waldoxy, Woman in Need, included the party anthem "Got My Whiskey," which has already become a standard. "Hole in the Wall," a paean to all-night juking from his more recent Material Things, appears headed in the same direction. The one time I've seen Waiters perform, he wrecked the house: his band has one of the brawniest ensemble sounds I've heard from a modern soul-blues outfit, and his voice, especially on ballads, was much clearer and more nuanced than it is on record, with an emotional intensity that had the audience almost as sweaty as he was before the set was over. DW

:30 PM uOTIS RUSH

If there were any justice, Otis Rush would be as

exalted as his former labelmate Buddy Guy. The left-handed guitarist, a native of Philadelphia, Mississippi, can raise goosebumps with his vibrato-laden string bending, and his vocals are every bit as intense now as they were on his hit 1956 debut for Cobra Records, the Willie Dixon-penned "I Can't Quit You Baby." Rush made many of his greatest recordings for the west-side label in the late 50s, including the harrowing minor-key "My Love Will Never Die" and "Double Trouble" and the rumba-rocking "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)." Bad breaks (affiliations with Chess and Duke Records in the early 60s produced a mere handful of 45s) and failure to capitalize on the success that did come his way derailed his career more than once, yet Rush always seems to persevere--his 1995 headlining fest gig, sharing the stage with fellow fretburners Luther Allison and Eddie C. Campbell, was a mind-boggling display of west-side pyrotechnics. BD

sUNDAY, JUNE 10

BEST BUY SHOWCASE

NOON STEVE ARVEY &

KRAIG KENNING

Guitarist and percussionist Steve Arvey put together an impressive resumé as a sideman--with Bo Diddley, Hubert Sumlin, and Junior Wells, among others--before striking out on his own in the early 80s. He led the rootsy West Side Heat until 1991, but in the past decade he's worked mostly solo or with Kraig Kenning, an expressive and forceful slide guitarist whose songwriting is influenced heavily by contemporary scribes like Bruce Cockburn. But singer-songwriters with a bluesy streak are a dime a dozen, and the pair have yet to hone a vision that sets them apart from the pack. DW

1:30 PM JOHNNY DRUMMER

Journeyman Johnny Drummer plays mostly keyboards these days. In 1999 he released It's So Nice (Earwig), a laid-back soul-blues showcase; his most recent Earwig outing, Unleaded Blues, is a more straightforward blues set. Drummer's voice is a bit thin, but he has a supple way with a melody, especially on ballads like Latimore's "Let's Straighten It Out," a regular showstopper at Drummer's weekend shows at Lee's Unleaded Blues on the south side. DW

3 PM LIZ MANDVILLE GREESON

Vocalist Liz Mandville Greeson boasts a four-octave vocal range, but she's most effective when she restrains herself on sultry ballads like "Those Kisses," from her latest Earwig disc, Ready to Cheat. She's rare among contemporary blues chanteuses in that she writes most of her own material--not always a good thing, as evidenced by silliness like "He Left It in His Other Pants." But at her best--on the tender "How Could I Not Love You" or the clear-eyed "Walking on Eggshells"--she exhibits a winning emotional depth, combining tarty ebullience and good-girl-gone-bad pathos with theatrical flair. DW

4:30 PM JIMMY DILLON

Guitarist Jimmy Dillon has worked with artists as diverse as Clarence Clemons, Joe Cocker, Carlos Santana, the Moody Blues' Michael Pinder, and Buddy Guy, and his own style is an aggressive fusion of the influences he's absorbed in his travels. His latest disc, Rituals (Bedrock), includes forays into hard funk, 12-bar blues, and pop-soul balladry. His willingness to explore relatively subtle areas of melodic and tonal color--as on the electronically layered neoclassical title tune--separates him from his testosterone-addled contemporaries. DW

6 PM WAILIN' WALTER & THE BLUES SCREAMERS

On their self-produced CD, Shimmy, Shake, Stomp, Shout, Walter Malone and his band don't always wail or scream: Malone's clear, country-tinged vocals recall 60s-era New Orleans R & B vocalists, and his band supports him with a no-nonsense deep-pocket shuffle. The highlight of the disc is "Connie-Lee," which is graced by a well-crafted guitar solo that begins sparsely and evolves with a sweet elegance reminiscent of early Gatemouth Brown. But the group's version of Muddy Waters's "Rock Me" is a molten-metal mess, "Ghost Train Runnin" strives for southern noir but chokes on its own grunge and gristle, and on "Headed for Chicago" the group's determination to pour as much energy--and as many notes--as possible into every phrase sabotages what could have been a witty evocation of the country-to-city blues archetype. DW

ROUTE 66 ROADHOUSE

2 PM uFROM SONG TO

SESSION: THE MAKING

OF THE MODERN

BLUES RECORD

See the masters in action: legendary Memphis soul songwriters Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham will work with pianist Jimmy McCracklin (see today's Petrillo Music Shell listing) to devise a song for tonight's Petrillo headliner, Irma Thomas--who recorded a full-length CD of Penn compositions, My Heart's in Memphis, last year for Rounder. The demonstration will be narrated by Rounder producer Scott Billington. DW

4:30 PM CRITICS' CORNER

Participants include Jim O'Neal, founder of Living Blues magazine and the Rooster Blues label; veteran Chicago producer and blues journalist Dick Shurman; and Sun-Times music critic Dave Hoekstra. They'll discuss the role of journalism in keeping the blues tradition viable and accessible to a mass audience. Writer and producer Larry Hoffman, more of a gadfly than a peacekeeper, is scheduled to "moderate" the discussion. DW

JUKE JOINT

1:30 PM PAUL GEREMIA

Words like "conservator" and "interpreter" pop up often in articles about guitarist-vocalist Paul Geremia, but they don't really do him justice. True, he can re-create the intricate filigrees of Piedmont-style pickers like Blind Willie McTell with jaw-dropping precision, and his readings of Skip James's haunted meditations on life, loss, and existential desolation are almost Hitchcockian in their vividness. But he's also a master songwriter who, more than almost any of his contemporaries, has fully incorporated the blues vernacular into his own vocabulary. His lyrics are both nakedly personal and universally poetic, and his whiskey-sour voice can bring to life the sorrows and joys of generations. DW

2:30 PM C.J. CHENIER

C.J. Chenier (see today's Petrillo Music Shell listing) pays tribute to his father, zydeco legend Clifton Chenier.

3:30 PM uCOOTIE STARK and

CORA MAE BRYANT

These two artists are beneficiaries of the Music Maker Relief Foundation, a not-for-profit organization based in North Carolina that gives older blues artists money for living expenses, medical care, and musical equipment and helps them get recording time and gigs. Blind guitarist Cootie Stark, born James Miller in Abbeville, South Carolina, in 1927, worked for most of his life playing street corners, dances, and traveling shows around the Piedmont region. He never recorded, but by his own account he managed to scrape a living from music until age and changing public tastes sidelined him in the late 70s. Since 1997, when Music Maker founder Tim Duffy encountered him in Greenville, North Carolina, Stark has embarked on several European tours, and in 1999 he released an album, Sugar Man (Music Maker/Cello). He plays in

a stripped-down, somewhat elemental version of the traditional Piedmont style, and his voice, although it has coarsened with age, is still capable of an affecting tender-toned vibrato.

Vocalist Cora Mae Bryant learned the blues from her father, the legendary Georgia fretman Curley Weaver. As a young woman she often worked shows and private parties with him, but after health problems curtailed his career in the 50s she concentrated mostly on raising her children. Today she considers herself the bearer of his torch: her home in Oxford, Georgia, doubles as a carefully maintained museum dedicated to his memory, and she has become an outspoken local advocate for the preservation and study of his music and the music of contemporaries like Blind Willie McTell and Buddy Moss. Her sole CD, Born With the Blues (Music Maker), features her deep molasses growl and the dexterous picking of a young guitarist by the name of J.J., who will also accompany her here. DW

4:30 PM LUCKY &

JAMES PETERSON

Guitarist and keyboardist Lucky Peterson has been playing with his dad, James, almost since he was born: the elder Peterson, who also plays guitar, owned a nightclub in Buffalo in the 60s and early 70s, and by the time Lucky was three he was sitting in with the band. Since then Lucky's recordings on labels like Alligator and Verve have catapulted him to international recognition. He's got chops to burn, but he packs his phrases with notes they don't need, and his live act is heavy on the macho mugging. James, meanwhile, purveys an earnest, if sometimes unfocused, fusion of funky soul-blues and contemporary 12-bar boilerplate. It's difficult to imagine two less compatible styles going head-to-head, but if anyone can make it work, it's these guys. DW

CROSSROADS

2 PM LUCKY &

JAMES PETERSON

See today's Juke Joint listing.

4 PM MAgIC SOUNDS

Zydeco legend Boozoo Chavis, who was scheduled to play this slot, died on May 5, unable to recuperate from a heart attack a week earlier. His band, the Magic Sounds (formerly the Majic Sounds), which includes three of his sons, will pay tribute to him here.

FRONT PORCH

noon uHOLMES BROTHERS

The cover of the Holmes Brothers' 1997 disc Promised Land (Rounder) portrays a clapboard building--a juke joint, or maybe a backwoods church--bursting into what might be either hellfire or tongues of flame from the Holy Spirit. That ambiguity is the key to their power: whether grinding through a salacious ode to the blues life, rasping out prophetic warnings to a fallen world, or exploding into salvation-bound glory, the Holmeses home in on the intersection of hope and existential terror that's at the root of both blues and gospel. DW

1:30 PM uCOOTIE STARK and CORA MAE BRYANT

See today's Juke Joint listing.

3 PM PAUL GEREMIA

See today's Juke Joint listing.

4:30 PM uDAN PENN &

SPOONER OLDHAM

Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham are legends of southern soul and rock 'n' roll whose songwriting credits include Percy Sledge's "It Tears Me Up" and "Out of Left Field," the Box Tops' "Cry Like a Baby," the Sweet Inspirations' "Sweet Inspiration," and James and Bobby Purify's "I'm Your Puppet." Penn also

cowrote James Carr's "Dark End of the Street" and Aretha Franklin's "Do Right Woman Do Right Man" with Chips Moman and produced "Sweet Inspiration" and the Box Tops' "The Letter," and Oldham played keyboards on such classics as Franklin's "I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)" and Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman." Although they've both remained active--Penn as a songwriter and recording artist, Oldham as a widely sought side- and session man--their shows consist mostly of their hits from the soul era. The last time they played Blues Fest, they stunned a rowdy late-afternoon crowd into silence, spinning aching country-soul harmonies so delicately interwoven they threatened to dissolve in midair. DW

6 PM uHOLMES BROTHERS

See earlier listing on this stage.

PETRILLO MUSIC SHELL

5 PM SON SEALS

Son Seals grew up in his dad's juke joint, the Dipsy Doodle, in Osceola, Arkansas, where Robert Nighthawk and Albert King performed regularly, and by the time he came to Chicago in 1971, his career path was set. His jagged guitar attack was a work in progress when he signed with Alligator in '73, but over the course of seven more albums, capped off by the 1996 live album Spontaneous Combustion, he developed a signature, if not sensational, combination of grizzly-bear vocals and repetitive riffing and a reputation, deserved or not, as one of the Windy City's top bluesmen. In fact Seals too often goes on autopilot in concert, overworking the same rudimentary licks, but when he's paying attention, he can be devastating. In the past decade, he's suffered some bad breaks: in 1997 his wife (now his ex) shot him in the jaw, and in 1999 he lost part of his left leg to diabetes. He also made the questionable decision to leave Alligator, the label that had nurtured him for two decades; his recent Telarc CD, Lettin' Go, which features a cameo by Phish's Trey Anastasio, finds him awfully far down the path from his dad's roadhouse. BD

6:10 PM uJIMMY McCRACKLIN

with SUGAR PIE DeSANTO

Bay Area legend Jimmy McCracklin will turn 80 in August, and the city has designated this set as an early celebration. The Saint Louis-born piano pounder's

voluminous discography goes back to 1945, but his first hit came in 1958 with the Top Ten dance workout "The Walk," whose bass line was borrowed by Freddy King for his classic guitar instrumental "Hide Away." McCracklin's early sides were sparse downbeat blues that put his commanding voice and sturdy piano work out front, but guitarist Lafayette "Thing" Thomas helped rock up McCracklin's 50s output, and his 60s hits "Just Got to Know," "Every Night, Every Day," and "Think" incorporated elements of soul. Diminutive

dynamo Sugar Pie DeSanto is another Bay Area mainstay whose earthy demeanor hasn't diminished with age--when she's singing something like "Use What You Got," she'll still get down and grind like she's on a burlesque stage. She scored her first hit in 1960 with the shuffling "I Want to Know," then joined the Checker Records roster, dividing her time between breezy Windy City soul and tough blues. Her biggest seller, 1964's "Slip In Mules," was an answer to Tommy Tucker's "Hi Heel Sneakers." BD

7:30 PM C.J. CHENIER & THE RED HOT LOUISIANA BAND

If Boozoo Chavis represented zydeco's rich history, accordionist C.J. Chenier embodies its probable future, stirring contemporary influences like R & B, soul, and funk into his spicy musical gumbo. C.J. is the son of zydeco king Clifton Chenier, and started out playing alto sax with his dad's Red Hot Louisiana Band. As Clifton's health failed in the 80s, C.J. steadily assumed more of the accordion duties; when his dad died in 1987, he inherited the band. Knowing he can never replace his dad as king, the younger Chenier still goes by "the Crown Prince of Zydeco." BD

:40 PM uIRMA THOMAS &

THE PROFESSIONALS

Although her Handy Award-winning album of Dan Penn compositions is titled My Heart's in Memphis, Irma Thomas's heart will always remain in her hometown of New Orleans, where she's revered as the resident queen of soul. (When she's not on the road, she's often holding court at the Lion's Den, a cozy Crescent City lounge she operates with her husband.) It's hard to believe Thomas is 60 years old--she radiates a youthful joy onstage and her naturally soulful vocal delivery hasn't changed a whit since 1959, when she debuted with the insinuating rocker "Don't Mess With My Man." Under the guidance of prolific producer-composer-pianist Allen Toussaint, Thomas hit her stride in the early 60s with the plaintive "Cry On," "It's Raining," and "Ruler of My Heart," and waxed "Time Is on My Side" in 1964 for the Imperial label (the Rolling Stones appropriated it soon thereafter). Her biggest seller, her own "Wish Someone Would Care," was arranged in majestic uptown-soul style by H.B. Barnum. I'm not sure what she's got planned for this evening: a few years back, I saw a dreadful discoized set at the Arie Crown Theater, but I've also seen her rouse countless crowds in classic New Orleans style. BD

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