Yes, they still play the blues in the juke joints of the Mississippi Delta, and guitarist Booba Barnes is one of the region's most popular musicians. Barnes is usually found holding forth in the dirt-floored Playboy Club in Greenville, Mississippi, and his music matches the ambience. His guitar fires out rough-edged bursts with unorthodox phrasing and an intensity that makes clear his stylistic debt to early-60s Howlin' Wolf, and his harp blowing fuses the raw emotionality of the Delta tradition with a surprisingly lyrical undercurrent--Slim Harpo's "Scratch My Back" is a Booba Barnes standby. Barnes's tributes to mentors sometimes slip over into imitation, and there's a hit-or-miss quality to his fretwork that can be irritating. But he ignites a charge in the room that many more seasoned performers no longer inspire--the no-holds-barred exuberance of unfettered blues. Tonight, Shades, 21860 N. Milwaukee, Prairie. View; 708-634-2583. Monday, B.L.U.E.S., 2519 N. Halsted; 528-1012.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Valerie Wilmer.