Little Milton | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Bluesman Little Milton began his recording career at Sun Records in the 50s, but until he arrived at Chess Records in the early 60s his output mainly consisted of well-crafted but undistinguished pastiches of ideas from established artists. Working with producer Billy Davis and saxophonist-arranger Gene "Daddy G" Barge at Chess, Milton forged his signature sound: trenchant, worldly-wise lyrics delivered in a muscular baritone, with brawny horns and lithe, string-bending guitar lines. As a guitarist, Milton took inspiration from T-Bone Walker and B.B. King, but he brought his own harmonic style and crafted expressive phrases with pointillistic precision. Those skills helped make him one of the few blues artists to achieve R & B chart success after the 60s. More recently, though he remains a popular figure on the southern blues circuit, he's been striving for crossover recognition. Welcome to Little Milton (Malaco, 1999) included cameos by Gov't Mule, Delbert McClinton, Lucinda Williams, and Dave Alvin; his upcoming disc, Think of Me (Telarc), does away with the horns, and most of his melodic lines owe as much to 70s guitar rock as anything like blues or soul. But Milton's sinewy vocals remain shot through with yearning, and his guitar solos are eloquent, spare masterpieces. Artie "Blues Boy" White opens. Sat 4/30, 8 PM, East of the Ryan, 914 E. 79th, 773-874-1500, $21 in advance, $30 at the door.

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

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