DC Bellamy | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader


Blues guitarist DC Bellamy moved to Kansas City years ago, but he learned to play in his native Chicago--his half brother Curtis Mayfield used to rehearse with the Impressions in the family's living room. At Bellamy's ninth Christmas, in 1957, he was given his first guitar, and by his late teens he was working blues and R & B pickup gigs around town. His early idols were rock 'n' rollers like Elvis, but he kick-started his career working behind soul stalwarts like Betty Everett, Gene Chandler, Brook Benton, and Donny Hathaway, as well as more traditional blues artists like Jimmy Reed. Bellamy plays mostly 12-bar Chicago blues these days, and on his brand-new debut, Water to Wine (Rooster Blues), he's better at combining other peoples' styles than he is at coming up with fresh ideas of his own--but in the roots-conscious, even intentionally derivative aesthetic universe of the blues, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The smooth, supple tone of his leads recalls Mayfield's guitar sound, but his sharp, sparsely articulated melodic phrases have more in common with Magic Sam's primitive gin-mill stylings. And while the chugging cadences of "Just Foolin' Yourself" make it sound a lot like a Jimmy Reed tune, Bellamy's churchy vocals and witty storytelling are strongly reminiscent of Bobby Rush's chitlin' circuit showmanship. Bellamy clearly enjoys the little charge he can give a song by crossing the line between the carnal and the sacred: on the title track he equates his woman's bedroom prowess with miracle working, and "I Ain't Gettin' What I Used to Get"--which tells a story of betrayal and sexual frustration--is arranged like a storming gospel number, complete with sanctified organ and pumping percussion. As good as Water to Wine is, though, at this year's blues fest Bellamy proved he can top it with his live show, cutting loose with a whole battery of crowd-pleasing guitar pyrotechnics that he has yet to document on record. Friday and Saturday, October 27 and 28, 9:30 PM, Rosa's Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage; 773-342-0452. Bellamy also gives a free in-store performance before the Saturday show, at 1 PM at Jazz Record Mart, 444 N. Wabash; 312-222-1467.


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