John Brim | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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John Brim




John Brim is revered among blues collectors for his 50s-era recordings on labels such as Chess, Checker, and Parrot--sides that bristle with sexual innuendo ("Ice Cream Man") and emotional tumult ("Be Careful"). The crudity of his style, along with his steadfast refusal to be patronized by revivalist hucksters, has kept him mired in obscurity, but his gifts remain potent. His voice, once a captivating fusion of longing and pugnacity, has thickened into a primal growl, but as a guitarist he can still wring simple beauty and anguish from a sparse 12-bar meditation with an eloquence that seems destined to die with his generation. Brim learned his craft in the rural south, and like many of his contemporaries he has never entirely adapted his rhythmic sensibilities to the demands of ensemble playing. His timing can range from eccentric to anarchic, and he'll throw in unexpected chords and beats or even modulate into entirely new themes without warning. But his best work transcends mere beat counting: when he loses himself in the hypnotic Delta shuffle that's propelled Chicago blues from its postwar rebirth to the present, he can transport listeners into realms of emotion and meaning that latter-day Friends of Jake and Elwood reach only in their dreams. Saturday, 10 PM, Smoke Daddy, 1804 W. Division; 773-772-6656. DAVID WHITEIS

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

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