Philip Walker | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Guitarist Phillip Walker's music resides in a challenging middle territory. With his high-energy approach and love for up-tempo variations on traditional blues, he's got one foot in the modernist camp. On the other hand, his smooth, string-bending leads are fired out with tough-toned aggression, and supported by a hard shuffle that easily recalls the musicians who were his idols when he was growing up in Louisiana and Texas--B.B. King, the young Lonnie Brooks (then known as Guitar Junior), and regional legend Lonesome Sundown. Walker sometimes sounds as if he's trying to force himself into the pop-blues mold of Robert Cray--a recent LP includes a version of "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark"--but he's at his best when he sticks to his roots. Walker's singing has been compared to early Ray Charles; that's a bit overstated, but his voice is more than adequate to do justice to the emotional range of his music, especially the ballads he intersperses among the celebratory flag-wavers and raunchy blues standards. Tonight and Saturday, Rosa's, 3420 W. Armitage; 342-0452.

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