Local bluesman Toronzo Cannon is one of Chicago’s finest string-bending storytellers | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Local bluesman Toronzo Cannon is one of Chicago’s finest string-bending storytellers



Toronzo Cannon’s 2016 breakout debut album for Alligator is titled The Chicago Way, but it doesn’t include a song of the same name. Since that release, the homegrown bluesman has become so enamored with the phrase that he wrote a song around it in time for his next album, The Preacher, the Politician or the Pimp (2019). “The Chicago Way” is a fast-paced boogie in the John Lee Hooker tradition, but it only hints at the depths of Cannon’s vast repertoire. He’s a highly emotive singer and a fantastic guitarist, but what makes him stand out in the contemporary blues scene is his talent for songwriting. Though he dishes out plenty of hot licks, he never rushes through the story that he’s telling in order to get to the guitar solo. Much of Cannon’s music stays within the realm of blues rock, but he varies his grooves and approaches. He drives the cryptic “First 24” with a slide guitar; the soul feel of “The Silence of My Friends” complements its social commentary about people who look the other way in the face of discrimination or injustice; “Insurance” is a nice little acoustic shuffle, helped along by Billy Branch’s harmonica; and the title track recalls Curtis Mayfield’s 1970s epics. Cannon packs so much substance into every song that it’s not hard to hear why he’s doing so well in the blues-rock scene.   v

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