Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater & Robert Lockwood Jr. | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater & Robert Lockwood Jr.


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Born in Mississippi in 1935, guitarist Edward Harrington moved to Chicago in 1950 and over the next decade recorded for local labels like Atomic-H, Federal, and LaSalle, along the way adopting his new surname as a playful nod to Muddy Waters. Clearwater's latest, Reservation Blues (Bullseye), sticks to his characteristic sound, melding amped-up roadhouse abandon with the emotional depth and focus of rootsier material. On tracks like "Everything to Gain" he digs into a chilling minor-key groove that evokes both Otis Rush and his own late-50s cut "A-Minor Cha Cha." But it's his Chuck Berry-influenced fare that's made Clearwater a perennial nightclub fave, both in the States and abroad: on "I Wouldn't Lay My Guitar Down" and Berry's own "Sweet Little Rock and Roller" his leathery bellow sounds as raw as ever, and he punches out those time-tested barrages of sixteenth-note chords (remember the intro to "Johnny B. Goode"?) with ballsy exuberance. Sharing the bill is octogenarian Robert Lockwood Jr., mentored by his stepfather, Robert Johnson, in the 30s and now one of the premier purveyors of the raw acoustic Delta tradition. For this date, though, he'll likely pick up an electric guitar, and with it a wholly different musical personality: plugged in, he plays an amiable combination of urban shuffle--the same blend of uptown and alley that he helped pioneer in the 50s at Chess--and jazzy, swinging jump blues. Lockwood's self-released 1990 album What's the Score? is probably the best recent example. One moment he unfurls supple leads influenced by T-Bone Walker, lays down riffs that sound like an entire horn section, and croons poppy ballads like "I'm So in Love With You" with wistful tenderness; then he'll belt out a gutbucket number like "Blues in the Evening," his vocals grainy and rough and his guitar work split between harsh chording and fiery single-note spurts. This show is part of a weekend-long party at Clearwater's nightclub, Reservation Blues, celebrating both the reissue of his excellent 1986 Rooster Blues album, Flimdoozie, and the club's first year in business. Each guitarist will play with his own band, but plans are in the works for a shared set at the end of the evening. Friday, April 26, 10 PM, Reservation Blues, 1566 N. Milwaukee; 773-645-5200.

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

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