Johnny Copeland | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Johnny Copeland


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We've been getting a lot of superb out-of-town blues acts in Chicago recently; Texas-based Johnny Copeland is one of the best. Since his days touring the southwest with the likes of Rice Miller and Big Mama Thornton in the 50s, he has enjoyed a reputation as one of the most versatile and prolific of bluesmen, utilizing stylistic influences ranging from the sophisticated swing of mid-50s Texas big-band blues through the gritty exuberance of his early recordings (beginning with "Rock 'n' Roll Lilly" in 1958). His best-known work, though, has occurred since 1980; although his playing has become louder and faster under the inevitable influence of rock, he is still capable of impressive creativity, both on record (utilizing sidemen ranging from jazz great Archie Shepp to indigenous African musicians) and in live performance. Some of the early subtlety may be missing from his style these days, but Copeland's show remains one of the hottest and most exciting to be found anywhere. Tonight and Saturday, B.L.U.E.S. Etcetera, 1124 W. Belmont; 525-8989.

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

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