Johnny Laws has a voice any modem blues singer would die for: he can modulate from sexy whisper to gritty funk to agonized wail in the course of a single song and never lose his trademark aching sweetness. But no matter how smooth Laws gets, his music always echoes the rough-and-tumble atmosphere of neighborhood clubs like the Cuddle Inn, at 53rd and Ashland, where he held the Saturday-night gig for years. His band of solid musicians share his romanticism, and their backing helps hold his varied musical and emotional themes together. Laws's guitar work; like his singing, combines soulful moodiness with post-50s-blues fire, and on a ballad like McKinley Mitchell's "End of the Rainbow" the result can be spellbinding: over the folky intimacy of Laws's gentle chording, his voice soars into realms of longing that few other contemporary Chicago blues vocalists can approach. Tonight and Saturday, Lilly's, 2513 N. Lincoln; 525-2422. Sunday, Cuddle Inn, 5317 S. Ashland; 778-1999.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bruce Powell.