Vernon Ray Harrington & the Atomic-H2 | Rosa's Lounge | Blues, Gospel, and R&B | Chicago Reader

Vernon Ray Harrington & the Atomic-H2 Recommended Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: Fri., June 26, 9:30 p.m. 2009

Guitarist Vernon Ray Harrington is part of one of the most important extended families in Chicago blues. He’s cousins with Eddie Clearwater, who’s cousins with Carey Bell—father of stellar guitarist Lurrie—and his own father, Houston H. Harrington, ran the local Atomic-H label in the 50s and 60s. He’s been a fixture on the west-side scene for decades, and earlier this year he resuscitated his father’s label (renamed Atomic-H2) to release his first recording under his own name, West Side Blues. It’s a rough-hewn affair, consisting mostly of hard-chugging 12-bar shuffles streaked with back-alley funk. Harrington’s guitar leads are sinewy and supple, and because he draws not only on the postwar Chicago canon but on influences from much further afield, like Guitar Slim out of New Orleans, he can bring new dimensions to improvisational ideas that might otherwise have seemed cliched. He’s even more impressive as a lyricist: sometimes sardonic and sometimes sincere, he takes on contemporary social issues (“Crackhead Woman”) as well as more customary topics like infatuation and heartbreak, and his singing, like his writing, manages that classic blues balance between garment­-rending passion and hard-boiled cynicism. —David Whiteis

Price: $12, $10 in advance

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