West-side blues is characterized by an aggressive guitar attack punctuated by busy, complex chording between the lead phrases and propelled by a strongly driving rhythm section of bass and drums. Otis Rush took this raw, elemental sound and brought it to new heights in the late 50s with classics like "Double Trouble," "Groaning the Blues," and "Violent Love." With a churning, tormented emotionalism, unmatched since Robert Johnson, highlighted by the gritty riffing of tenor sax and piano, Rush's sound became the epitome of the angry, declamatory west-side sound of the late 1950s, overshadowing the relatively gentle Delta lyricism of the older south-side men. After years of inactivity, Otis is back in action, packing as much emotional wallop as ever and steadily reclaiming his place as one of the most significant artists in the blues. Don't let rumors of past erratic performances scare you away; Otis is in full command of himself, and his longstanding reputation as one of the best enables him to handpick the finest sidemen available. Wednesday, December 31, Biddy Muffigan's, 7644 N. Sheridan; 761-6532. Thursday, January 1, B.L.U.E.S., 2519 N. Halsted; 528-1012.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Fraher.