Larry McCray | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader
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Larry McCray recorded his first LP in a friend's basement while holding down a line job at General Motors. In 1990 it was released by Pointblank, titled Ambition, and McCray hasn't twisted a rivet since. The story is the stuff of blues legend, but McCray's music is far from the unadorned proletarian story telling many still associate with urban blues. He's as likely to give a nod to 70s-era, ensemble-style rockers like the Doobie Brothers as he is to evoke B.B. or Freddie King: his molten leads flow through the arrangements, and he names Steve Vai and Joe Walsh, as well as the Kings, as his heroes. The passion that fuels his playing can elevate even the most staid room, and he's capable of surprising emotional subtlety: he delivers "Sally's Got a Friend in New York City," a potentially doleful tale of adolescent desperation, with a soaring anger that embraces and eventually transcends hopelessness. Such moments bode well for McCray's future as a mature modern bluesman; on the other hand, he could burn himself out and become a blues Bon Jovi. For now, though, it's sure fun watching him wrestle with the decision. Friday, Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 S. Wabash; 427-0333 or 427-1190.

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