Jimmy Burns bills himself as a bluesman, but he's actually a sensitive purveyor of songs from a broader spectrum of African-American popular music. Born in Mississippi, Burns taught himself guitar by plucking notes from broom wire nailed to the planks of his front porch. By the 50s he'd come to Chicago, where he sang for a time with the legendary doo-wop aggregation the Medallionaires and also cut some singles of his own, although he never forged a full-time musical career. Burns's voice has retained most of the satin of his doo-wop youth, touched by just enough sandpaper to let the blues in. His fretwork ranges from sweet soul chording to declamatory Chicago testifying. Burns is fearless in his eclecticism--at a recent west-side soul-blues extravaganza he exploded into a series of post-60s Freddie King-style arpeggios that set the crowd back on its heels; and I've also seen him silence a rocked-out north-side audience with pristine versions of soul classics like Sam Cooke's "You Send Me." Friday and Saturday, 10 PM, Smoke Daddy, 1804 W. Division; 772-6656.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Jimmy Burns photo by James Crump-RSP.