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Mike Henderson & the Bluebloods

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MIKE HENDERSON & THE BLUEBLOODS

At first glance singer-guitarist Mike Henderson's recent transformation from first-rate Nashville tunesmith to raunchy bluesman may seem strange, but a closer inspection reveals that the styles are merely different sides of the same coin. (After all, the 1957 Howlin' Wolf hit "Sitting on Top of the World" was recorded by Milton Brown's great western swing band back in 1934, and such casual genre bending was responsible for the birth of rock 'n' roll.) After getting unceremoniously dropped by RCA a few years back, Henderson hooked up with buddies Kevin Welch and Kiernan Kane to form the upstart Nashville label Dead Reckoning, and the freedom it afforded him is obvious on his latest outing, First Blood. Joined by Nashville stalwarts John Gardner (drums) and Glenn Worf (bass), Henderson and former Stevie Ray Vaughan keyboardist Reese Wynans romp through blues standards like Elmore James's "Mean Mistreater" and Otis Spann's "Bloody Murder." What differentiates Henderson and company from the legions of contemporary white blues bands is that while others taint the music with rock bombast, this band prefers to swing and shuffle. On "When I Get Drunk" Wynans invokes the spirited boogie-woogie of Jerry Lee Lewis, one of the all-time great practitioners of musical miscegenation, while on guitar Henderson avoids flashy high-note flurries in favor of down-and-dirty grit. The Bluebloods are neither reverential revivalists nor innovators, but between the players' varied backgrounds and their understanding of the music, they've managed to inject plenty of life into what would be a rote exercise in lesser hands. Friday, 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): band photo.

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