Corey Harris is a member of the small but growing coterie of young African American bluesmen who've eschewed flash and fashion for the emotionally rich but musically challenging (and commercially risky) subtleties of the acoustic tradition. Harris mixes and matches influences with a genre-jumping abandon that some might find distracting: he'll punctuate a languorous half-shuffle, half-boogie rhythm with high-treble exclamation marks reminiscent of Charlie Patton, then move into a series of undulating slide whines that invoke Robert Johnson; over the top he'll moan out his vocals with a phlegmy urgency borrowed from Big Joe Williams, with a hint of Son House's tormented high-tension balance between the sacred and the profane thrown in. But rather than sounding dilettantish he comes off as being immersed in the spirit of the music, caring more for emotional honesty than for slavish dedication to scholarly notions of authenticity. Harris's voice lacks the intensity many associate with Delta blues, but there's an agreeable, gruff emotionality to it, and like his playing it's remarkably devoid of self-consciousness. Whether he and his fellow revivalists can resurrect these vintage styles and bring them into the 90s as anything but enjoyable relics remains to be seen, but there's something undeniably inspiring about the sincerity and audacity of the attempt. Friday, 9 PM, Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 S. Wabash; 427-0333 or 427-1190.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/James Fraher.