The early part of Percy Strother's career, in the 60s and 70s, was spent scuffling between anonymous blues joints from the Delta to Minneapolis. In those days he focused on the raw 12-bar blues of his Mississippi roots. But in recent years Strother has branched out in the direction of contemporary soul-blues, and now he's one of the artists most likely to bridge the gap that separates the predominantly black chitlin' circuit audience from the younger, mostly white beer-and-boogie crowd. Strother's meaty baritone is sensual and menacing at once, and his lyrics range from dark patriarchal proclamations like "Get Out of My House" to gruff promises of fidelity like "Ain't Nobody Take Your Place" (both tunes are on last year's It's My Time, on JSP). Though his newfound versatility has been roundly acclaimed, Strother's stylistic leaps sometimes sound forced, his timbre and timing stiff, and despite his attempts to temper his back-alley persona with dusky balladry, there's a fierceness to his demeanor that his sensitive-male mask can't hide. But in his guitar work he strikes the balance his vocals fail to achieve: there his fiery tone and no-nonsense aggressiveness meet exploratory improvisational flights without the least bit of awkwardness or artifice. Strother also has a reputation as a house-wrecking performer: on a recent European tour he reportedly stole nearly every bill he appeared on. Friday and Saturday, 9:30 PM, Rosa's, 3420 W. Armitage; 773-342-0452. DAVID WHITEIS
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Mark Brett/Positive Negatives.