When: Fri., Jan. 20, 9:30 p.m. 2017
Since the 80s there has been a movement to keep the blues alive by addressing modern-day obstacles rather than copying, say, Big Bill Broonzy note for note. At its worst the newest wave of socially conscious blues winds up sounding like hokey entries in a time capsule, with vague, gratuitous references to cell phones, the Internet, and the war in Iraq. On his new album Blues Immigrant (Tongue ’N Groove), Matthew Skoller shows no trace of this problem—not only is he a fascinating harmonica player and vocalist, he’s also a great storyteller. Skoller can create a great “My baby left me” song but also explore other topics with poignant and pointed words that never feel heavy-handed. His tales about corporate greed and immigrants coming to America ring with an undeniable truth, but his sharpest observations come on “Only in the Blues,” a cynical examination of an industry peppered with grade-school blues prodigies and barely paid bar bands. Yes, you can boogie to it, but the lyrics were printed on the CD booklet for a reason.