Ronnie Baker Brooks | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Ronnie Baker Brooks




Ronnie Baker Brooks played his first gig in 1975, at the age of nine--when his father, guitarist Lonnie Brooks, invited him to sit in at a south-side club called Pepper's Hideout. By 1986 he'd graduated to a full-time gig with dad's band, and his 1998 solo debut, Golddigger (Watchdog), revealed a guitar style that spanned the modern blues spectrum. The lurking cadences and playfully aggressive lyrics of "She's a Golddigger" and "Love Rebound" smack of Lonnie's trademark Louisiana swamp-blues sound and the contemporary soul blues of Bobby Rush; Brooks also nods to his idol Stevie Ray Vaughan with the distorted slide and phlegmy vocals on "Bald-headed Woman." The full-metal assaults of "Stuck on Stupid" and "Must've Been Bought" may clear the room of purists in seconds flat, but be patient: a churchy organ smooths out Brooks's abrasive fret work on "Stupid," and on "Bought" he croons and cackles maniacally through guest guitarist and coproducer Jellybean Johnson's borderline psychotic leads, turning the tune into a tug-of-war between gonzo P-Funk excess and Hendrix-style pyrotechnics. Perhaps most provocative, though, is the album's tender folk-pop closer, "I'll See You Again": it reveals a vulnerable side of Brooks's musical personality that, if properly nourished, could free him from the testosterone dependency that afflicts so many of his peers. Friday, 9 PM, Beale Street Blues Cafe, 1550 N. Rand, Palatine; 847-776-9850. Saturday, 9 PM, B.L.U.E.S., 2519 N. Halsted; 773-528-1012. DAVID WHITEIS

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Fraher.

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