Super Percy sang gospel in his native Shelby, Mississippi, as a young man; after arriving in Chicago about 25 years ago he crossed over to secular music, and since then he's been a mainstay at south- and west-side clubs. His usual set is heavy on soul-blues standards like Tyrone Davis's "It's a Miracle" and Joe Simon's "Chokin' Kind," but instead of crooning like a soul singer he slightly softens the hard, leathery attack of a bluesman with a supple vibrato and by dipping into a breathy tone that hints at a vulnerable side. When Otis Clay sang "I Can Take You to Heaven Tonight," his earthly love seemed animated by the Holy Spirit, as if he'd abandoned himself to his emotions the way some other people surrender themselves to God; in Percy's choked version, though, there's no whisper of heaven--he sounds like he's wrestling with his own desperation, driven by desire yet bound by a fear of heartbreak. But ultimately the feeling his music creates is triumphant: he takes on Mel Waiters's party song "Hole in the Wall" like a man determined to live it up until the end of the night or the end of the world, whichever comes first. Pamela Zachery, who lives in Evanston, has a soprano as silky and tender as Percy's baritone is rugged. She wraps Betty Wright's raunchy "Clean Up Woman" in kittenish softness, and her coy insinuation on Erykah Badu's caustic "Tyrone" makes it sound like she wants the man in question around for a lot more than hauling her no-good boyfriend's stuff to the curb. She's also capable of a gutsier, more aggressive approach: on Aretha's "Baby I Love You" she scuffs up the girlish brilliance of her tone with carefully placed rasps, and her voice remains supple and sure as she soars through the tune's challenging upper-register swoops and glides. Both singers will be accompanied by Percy's regular combo, a two-guitar four-piece called the Soul Clique Band; Percy will perform his set first. Friday, December 14, 9 PM, Jerry's Nite Life, 12303 S. Halsted; 773-821-1427. Sunday, December 16, 8 PM, Lady Blue Lounge, 2953 W. Madison; 773-826-0317. Monday, December 17, 7 PM, Geno's Place in the Park, 12401 S. Ashland, Calumet Park; 708-385-3100.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marc PoKempner.