It sounds like a plotline for "Johnny B. Goode, the Movie": Georgia-born Johnnie Marshall's career consisted mostly of playing his guitar at a backwoods juke near Tallahassee. Then one night guitarist and vocalist Johnny Rawls played there, and Marshall sat in. The next day Rawls got on the phone to JSP Records in London and sang his praises to owner John Steadman; soon Marshall was on the first airplane flight of his life, coming to Chicago to cut his debut CD, Live for Today, released earlier this year. Marshall's material ranges from breezy pop blues ("Let's Hope Our Love Is Not a Mistake") through Booker T.-influenced funk ("Dave's C.C. Groove") to high-octane roadhouse rock ("Live For Today"). He brings a T-Bone Walker feel to "Four O'Clock in the Morning," while "Not Like This Before" chugs along in a groove reminiscent of Lowell Fulson's "Tramp"--Marshall's sparse, piercing leads, like Fulson's, meld sophistication with country straightforwardness. The anthemic "Love to Play Them Blues" is his showcase piece: he kicks off his solo with firmly contoured double string bends and crisp single-string lines, then erupts into a rapid volley of note clusters, turning up the heat until his tone's at a rolling boil; then he simmers down and starts over. Occasionally Marshall's inexperience shows: several songs end so abruptly they feel unfinished, and his vocals are callow and a little unsure. As a guitarist, though, he's a real roadhouse warrior, and once he's had time to prove himself, he'll belong in the front rank. Friday and Saturday, 9:30 PM, Rosa's Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage; 773-342-0452. DAVID WHITEIS
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.