Sleepy LaBeef | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Call it roadhouse music, honky-tonk, rockabilly, or what you please--I'd just as soon call it traditional rock 'n' roll, and I'm convinced that right now Sleepy LaBeef is its foremost purveyor. Maybe you haven't heard of him (and frankly I'm at a loss to explain why he's not a hundred times more well known), but you should, because LaBeef, a native Arkansan well into his fourth decade of the rock 'n' roll road life, possesses an impossibly deep, rich bass voice and a repertoire of several hundred songs, which he delivers in concert with a curiously serene Zen effortlessness, one after another, building inexorably to a peak of excitement that turns a bar into a party. He's neither a wet-behind-the-ears newcomer nor an exhausted old fart, but a rugged, hulking bear of a rockin' man who's still running at full musical potency. At a time when so much roots rock has turned into slick, predictable beer-commercial music, LaBeef provides the genuine article so many of us crave; he sings and plays the music with genuine depth and soul, as an exploration of what love and sorrow and joy really feel like, rather than as a sound track to some yuppie fantasy of a partyland where it's always Miller time. Tonight, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118. Saturday, 2 PM, Taste of Lincoln Avenue, Lincoln between Fullerton and Wrightwood; 472-9046. Sunday, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620.

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