Eddie King | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Eddie King

Guitarist Eddie King isn't the kind of innovator who can create a new style out of whole cloth, but he's hardly a by-the-numbers imitator either: with his original approach to tried-and-true blues idioms, he's found a distinctive sound, combining grit-and-gristle vocals, stripped-down funk rhythms, and string-bending guitar leads. An Alabama native who moved to Chicago as a teen, King played in some of the busiest bands on the west side in the late 50s and early 60s, most notably the groups fronted by late harpist Little Mac Simmons. He worked a few sessions for Chess with Willie Dixon and Sonny Boy Williamson II, cut a handful of poorly distributed singles on local labels like JOB and Conduc, and finally, in 1985, released his debut LP, The Blues Has Got Me (Double Trouble). The record was hailed as a diamond in the rough, but he wouldn't put out his second full-length, Another Cow's Dead (Roesch), until 1997. The title track (actually "Another Cow Dead Tonight") is a lugubrious grind, with a four-piece horn section bawling and mewling behind King's coarse-toned yet crisply articulated guitar phrases. On the soul-blues rocker "How Long Are You Going to Be Gone," his vocals call to mind both fervent gospel and dirt-road blues, and though his solo doesn't stray far from the melody, it still explores a rich variety of tonal and emotional colors. On "Never Loved a Woman" his voice approximates Albert King's blackstrap-molasses growl, and his guitar cuts a smoldering swath through the band's satiny Booker T.-style riffing. In live performances King is especially arresting: he stalks the stage, hurling riffs at his sidemen and the audience like a circus knife thrower--except that he's not trying to miss. Here he'll play with his regular band, the Swamp Bees. Friday, February 16, 9 PM, B.L.U.E.S., 2519 N. Halsted; 773-528-1012.

DAVID WHITEIS

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