Phillip Walker | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Phillip Walker

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Guitarist Phillip Walker's versatility reflects the diverse blues and R & B heritage of Louisiana and Texas, where he was born and raised. He can segue from a swinging roadhouse jump blues to a stark Lightnin' Hopkins moan, then heat things up with a steaming dose of R & B funk and finish with a dazzling guitar flourish that melds a sophisticated linearity akin to T-Bone Walker's with a backwoods grit reminiscent of Lonseome Sundown and other Louisiana jukers. It's all held together by Walker's emotional commitment to blues expression in all its form and the musical acumen he brings to all of his stylistic variations. Especially notable is his voice: it's one of today's more expressive, gritty and powerful yet tempered by a soulfulness that can caress with a tenderness that recalls vintage-era Bobby "Blue" Bland. But Walker is no copyist: he stamps his individuality on everything he does, and his sizable repertoire of original matieral makes his shows varied and challenging in an era when even some of our most popular blues entertainers limit their performances to ell-worn cover versions and standards. Next Thursday, Brother Jimmy's BBQ & Booze, 2909 N. Sheffield; 528-0888.

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