Jo Jo Murray | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Jo Jo Murray


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Chicago-based blues and R & B vocalist Jo Jo Murray has a great sound--a sweet and gritty tenor that he complements with his fluid, sharp-toned guitar playing. But few people have heard it, at least on record. Murray cut his first single, "Why Baby," for the tiny Sound-O-Riffic label in 1971, and a 1989 LP, Real Man Steppin' Out, on I.B., went almost as unnoticed. In the early 90s he started his own label, GBM, to release another single and, a few years later, a CD entitled Song of Love. Although these days Murray promotes himself as a contemporary blues artist, his material recalls the "light soul" sound of much 60s and 70s Chicago R & B. "Some Kinda Lady"--his GBM single, reprised on Song of Love--is a catchy bit of fluff sung in a buoyant croon, and the disc's title tune, which rides billowing strings and cascading choral backing, is rescued from bathos only by the unadorned sincerity of his delivery. Murray delivers the workingman's lament "Here I Go Again" with tender resignation, and "You Lie to Me," despite its angry lyrics, lopes along in a Bacharach-like groove. But 12-bar blues like "Hey Hey Lonely Lady" and "I'm Gonna Let My Hair Down" reveal his slightly harder side: his sure-fingered guitar leads can approach the knife-edge glitter of Albert King's. Onstage Murray occasionally overdoes his favorite trick--covering standards in spot-on imitations of the masters' voices--which may further account for his lack of recognition outside the local club circuit. He's at his best when he relies instead on his own unpretentious elegance. Friday and Saturday, 9:30 PM, Rosa's Lounge, 3240 W. Armitage; 773-342-0452.


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