When: Wed., Sept. 16, 9:30 p.m. 2015
One of few younger-generation blues harpists in Chicago, Omar Coleman cites artists as diverse as John Lee Williamson (i.e., the original, pre-World War II “Sonny Boy”), Little Walter, Junior Wells, funk master Bobby Rush, and modernist innovator Sugar Blue as influences on his playing. Meanwhile, his vocals invoke sweet-soul romantics like Al Green along with urban jukers like Wells and hard-soul testifiers like Syl Johnson. His recent CD Born & Raised (Delmark) makes plain that he’s an adapter rather than an imitator—he’ll lock into a propulsive 12-bar shuffle, then switch gears and scoot through a series of boogielike rhythms. And he’ll do it all while improvising blues-harp lines that both challenge and complement the melodic structures of the songs. His singing expresses good-natured machismo and yearning vulnerability with equal aplomb, and his songwriting ranges from fresh takes on well-worn themes (“I Know You’ve Been Cheating”) to sophisticated meditations on love and loss (the quiet storm/urban contemporary-styled “I Was a Fool”). In all, Born & Raised is a bracing, well-balanced mix of raw enthusiasm and worldly knowingness.