The Hawaiian-style lap steel guitar is a lesser-known but delightfully idiosyncratic element of the Texas blues tradition, arguably the most diverse and esoteric in the country. Sonny Rhodes, who learned to play from lap steel pioneer L.C. "Good Rockin" Robinson in the early 60s, combines the distinctive instrument with one of the quirkier imaginations in modern blues--he once cut an LP backed by the Paris National Symphony, and his lyrics can cover everything from lost loves to trying to quit cigarettes. The lap steel's tonal complexity allows him to mix the shimmering emotionalism of Delta slide with ventures into other genres, such as country swing. Rhodes moves effortlessly from demonic ferocity to light-fingered dexterity (his version of Santo & Johnny's "Sleep Walk" is a showstopper), and he's mastered the classic Texas blend of hard-driving urgency and elegant sophistication. If that's not enough, he's got an unpredictable but unerringly musical improvisational vision as well. You're not likely to encounter a more implausible combination of influences and stylistic colorations, but Rhodes holds it all together with disarming effortlessness. Saturday, 10 PM, Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 S. Wabash; 427-0333 or 427-1190. DAVID WHITEIS
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.