John Primer | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Few contemporary bluesmen can fuse influences and stylistic shadings with John Primer's effortlessness and proficiency. For years he played with ex-Muddy Waters fretman Sammy Lawhorn at Theresa's on 48th and Indiana; he joined Waters himself for a time and recently served as Magic Slim's second guitarist. From Lawhorn, Primer absorbed shimmering melodicism, harmonic sophistication, and an irresistible sense of serious-minded musical playfulness. In Waters's band he gained confidence in his own slide-guitar playing and honed his instincts for the tonal and rhythmic subtleties of blues singing. More recently he's picked up a healthy dose of Slim's musical intensity and good-natured fierceness. But Primer has always been his own man: his solos are marked by a resolutely tasteful refusal to descend into overkill and superficiality; his repertoire consists of a delightful meld of postwar blues classics and seldom-heard gems. Of the younger bluesmen today he's one of the most dedicated to growth and exploration of new ideas, even as he keeps his primary sound firmly rooted in the Delta-Chicago tradition in which he grew up. Wednesday, 9 PM, Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 S. Wabash; 427-0333 or 427-1190.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marc PoKempner.

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