Harmonica player George Butler's career of obscure recording sessions, restless travels, and eccentric stylistic mergings has confounded critics and delighted fans for nearly 30 years. His harmonica style is raw and exuberant and drawn from virtually the entire blues harp tradition, although predictably he shows a special fondness for Rice Miller (the second Sonny Boy Williamson), another legendary individualist whose persona was nearly as overwhelming as his musical gifts. Butler's lyrical imagination is among the most delightfully twisted in all of contemporary blues: he tells stories, makes outlandish boasts, and piles on the outrageous imagery ("I got to lick gravy, woman / Girl, your meat too high to buy") while a lurching rhythm grinds underneath. Then there's that voice, heavily influenced by Miller's throaty vibrato, modulating from a testosterone-drenched bull roar to a lecherous gurgle. The resulting musical brew is sometimes erratic, but it's jaunty as a juke joint on Saturday night, and it boils and pops like some ungodly concoction of hambone stew, rotgut whiskey, and Spanish fly. Saturday, Rosa's, 3420 W. Armitage; 342-0452.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Joe Campbell.