TRAVIS "MOONCHILD" HADDIX
Born in Mississippi in 1938 and based in Cleveland since '59, guitarist Travis Haddix first put his name on the international blues map with five albums for Ichiban in the 80s--but the label has since folded, and those albums are tough to find. Though Haddix has been releasing records through his own Wann-Sonn imprint for more than a decade now, they're not much easier to track down, and that's a shame: despite occasionally thin production, the Wann-Sonn discs effectively showcase his improbable approach, which yokes 12-bar primitivism to soul-blues sophistication. He's down-to-earth without coming off as amateurish, combining a raw sound with tight, stinging soul licks and funky horns; his sidemen have a knack for counterpunching at just the right moments, goading him so that his loose style never seems simply sloppy. Haddix's latest, last year's Old & Easy, is up there with his best: On "Big Surprise, Surprise" Greg Nicholson's booty-popping bass kicks joyously beneath his grainy vocals, and the slow-rolling "Beggin' or Not" gets a dash of uptown elan from Jeff Hager's muted, sweet-and-sour trumpet. On "Woman With Clout," propelled relentlessly by drummer Vernondo Parker's funk-rock beat, Haddix solos with a steely tone and deliriously eccentric timing, nailing every chord change but wandering in the bars between. And "Touch Her Heart," despite its sensitive-guy lyrics, is as greasy and nasty as anything on the record: it sounds like it was taped live in the back room of a cinder-block roadhouse. To the best of my knowledge this is Haddix's first club date in Chicago, and it's long overdue. Saturday, July 21, 9:30 PM, Rosa's Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage; 773-342-0452.