Lonnie Pitchford may well be the most unique young bluesman active today, totally immersed in the most venerable blues traditions. His forte is the single-string guitar, a homemade instrument of direct African lineage that consists of a piece of baling wire nailed to a wall or post, with one end twined around a snuff can that can be turned to change the pitch of the instrument. (Sometimes he actually constructs it in front of the audience.) The droning sound that results must be heard to be appreciated simultaneously jaunty and stark, it sends chills down the spine even with its folk simplicity. This is the moment of conception revisited, the link--between instruments and scales of the fatherland and adopted Europeanisms--that gave rise to blues, jazz, and African American folk music. Pitchford is also an accomplished acoustic guitarist in the mold of Delta greats like Robert Johnson, but he's no retrograde purist--he'll plug in his electric guitar as well and bring to Chicago some of the raucous abandon of the jukes around his native Lexington, Mississippi. This is the way they've done it down home since it all began. Tonight through Sunday, Rosa's, 3420 W. Armitage; 342-0452.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Fraher.