James Peterson | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Guitarist James Peterson is a veteran bluesman, but he's spent most of his life as a club owner--most notably in Buffalo, where he introduced his son Lucky to the blues world with the assistance of Willie Dixon. Peterson's first LP, in 1970, was produced by Dixon, but he didn't really begin to fashion a viable recording career for himself until 1990, when he signed on with the King Snake/Ichiban label. He now records for Malaco's Waldoxy subsidiary, and his style reflects both the funky soulfulness and the commercial savvy of that Jackson, Mississippi, hit factory. On rockers his leads shimmer with the smooth intensity of a B.B. King; on ballads they weave gently through changes with a chordal and harmonic sophistication that recalls Teenie Hodges's work with the Hi Rhythm Section. Peterson digs deeply into hard-funk rhythms and shuffles alike; his voice is as gritty as a Delta veteran's, yet melodious enough to win airtime on contemporary R & B radio playlists. Surprisingly few contemporary blues artists these days achieve equal recognition among white and black listeners; Peterson's feel for both traditional and contemporary styles has the potential to place him among that number. Friday and Saturday, 9:30 PM, Rosa's, 3420 W. Armitage; 342-0452.

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