Those who saw Lee Shot Williams's torrid performance at the 1988 Chicago Blues Festival know that this underrecognized vocalist is among the most polished and entertaining on the contemporary scene. He arrived in Chicago from Mississippi in 1956, and he's been a favorite of aficionados since the early 60s, when he departed from gospel music and broke into the local blues and R & B circuit. Williams was one of the many vocalists given employment by guitar master Earl Hooker, and there remain elements of Hooker's brilliant emotionalism in Williams's passionate delivery. But Hooker was a solid bluesman, and Williams has never allowed himself to be pigeonholed; he fuses sophisticated blues fire with soulful elegance, throwing in healthy doses of street-level grit. His rich vocal timbre is enhanced by a gospel vibrato; especially notable is his ability to sustain tone and pitch throughout an entire phrase, an unmistakable sign of skill sadly lacking in many contemporary vocalists. There's a rare sureness underlying Williams's gritty showmanship; this gig should acquaint a new set of listeners with one of our premier vocal talents. Thursday, B.L.U.E.S., 2519 N. Halsted; 528-1012.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marc PoKempner.