Earl King | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Earl King


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The repertoire of New Orleans guitarist Earl King ranges from the easy-rolling balladry of "Those Lonely Lonely Nights" through the aggressive funk signifying of "Trick Bag"; and his lyrics and titles ("Well-O, Well-O, Well-O Baby," "Hum Diddy Doo") carry on the Crescent City tradition of musical wordplay. In performance he's both riveting and unpredictable: draped in a pastel suit, he'll establish intimate contact with his audience, then end up lurching distractedly around the stage like a lost spirit from a gris-gris ceremony. On guitar he strings together explosive arpeggios by tying them to extended melodic lines; he gooses the energy further by inserting percussive exclamation points between phrases and riding loosely on the bass line like the horns in a Mardi Gras parade band. King seems to revel in the chaos he can create--he's living proof that in New Orleans, as in Memphis, the fabled fault line between genius and madness remains as wonderfully dangerous as ever. Saturday, 10 PM, Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 S. Wabash; 312-427-0333 or 312-427-1190.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by James Freher.

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