Larry Taylor | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Larry Taylor

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Drummer and singer Larry Taylor learned the blues from his stepfather, Eddie Taylor, the guitarist who helped pioneer the postwar Chicago style. He's since played sideman to other greats, including A.C. Reed, Willie Kent, and Johnny Littlejohn, but for several years he's also fronted his own band. On his debut CD, the new They Were in This House (A.V.), Taylor presents himself as an earnest roots man, using his grainy baritone on standards like Howlin' Wolf's raucous "Killing Floor" and Jimmy Reed's "Signals of Love." (Wolf, Reed, and other now legendary figures were regular guests at the Taylors' west-side home, hence the album's title.) Taylor's own "Blues, Hard Luck & Trouble" has a Wolfish lope that showcases his rhythmic sense and quivering down-home vibrato, but he's most interesting on modern fare; while many soul and blues singers today smooth the edges off their songs, Taylor revels in the aggression and unbridled sensuality that infuses classic R & B and soul. On "Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone"--a 1971 Johnnie Taylor hit that inspired a stream of answer songs--he sings with a blunt ferocity that evokes the dark, amoral world of the street hustler; on the cautionary tale "Last Two Dollars," another Johnnie Taylor track, his rasp contains a combination of anguish and stark desperation that evokes Mississippi's Highway 61, where rusted cars and rotting trailer homes languish within yards of glittering casinos. Fri 12/10, 7:30 PM, Bill's Blues, 1029 Davis, Evanston, 847-424-9800, $5.

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