Willie James & Maxwell Blues | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Willie James & Maxwell Blues

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It'll be a little strange to hear these guys in the elegant confines of a sophisticated Lincoln Park bar--this is one of the bands that rock the Maxwell Street market with blues, soul, and stripped-down R&B on summer Sunday mornings. Ebullient guitarist Willie James adds his trademark length-of-the-fretboard triplet runs to a note-by-note improvisational style that seems to owe equal amounts to laid-back traditionalists like Jimmy Reed and string benders in the B.B. King mold. Meanwhile drummer Froggy Daniels thrashes away at his tubs with raucous abandon, occasionally contributing a larynx-tearing vocal rendition of "Down by the River" or Buddy Miles's "Them Changes." The resulting atmosphere is vintage Maxwell Street: a no-frills celebration of times both good and hard, buoyed by an underlying affirmation of life and haunted by a pervasive sense that both the music and the scene are tottering on the edge of either transcendence or dissolution. Tonight and Saturday, Lilly's, 2513 N. Lincoln; 525-2422.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marc PoKempner.

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