Woven like an erratic tapestry through the history of the Chicago blues is the legend and musical personality of Homesick James. A figure on the Chicago scene as early as 1936, Homesick finally got to cut some sides for the Chance label in 1951; crudely exciting, with his fiery, slashing slide guitar buoying up his patented straining vocal style, they ensured his place in history along with countless other less-known musicians--Lazy Bill Lucas, Willie Nix, John Brim, Robert Nighthawk, and the rest--whose body of work for small, obscure labels comprises the bulk of what we now consider "legendary" blues sides. Homesick's music, his personality, and his conversation are of a piece: Delightfully eccentric one minute, strangely off-center and infuriatingly out of sync the next, he cuts one of the most distinctive figures on the Chicago scene. Although his obstinate insistence on breaking time as if he were playing unaccompanied can give sidemen headaches, he also possesses a melodic, stinging slide style and a vibrato that harks back to traditional blues and field hollers. An evening with Homesick is an unforgettable experience in the presence of one of the blues' most unique musical characters. Thursday, B.L.U.E.S., 2519 N. Halsted; 528-1012.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Fraher.