Harmonica player Billy Branch studied under the greats–Junior Wells, Carey Bell, the late Big Walter Horton–but he has honed a style that is much more than simply derivative of his mentors. Billy has surrounded himself with young musicians who can play traditional Chicago blues and contemporary R and B styles with equal facility, and the result may make some purists cringe but is one of the most musically satisfying combinations of the old and the new to be found in Chicago today. Branch is passionately committed, in both his music and his teaching of elementary school children, to cultivate a love of the blues among a new generation of fans, while remaining true to the music’s tradition. His diversity, enthusiasm, and unpretentious sophistication are rapidly making him one of the most important ambassadors of the blues, both overseas and at home. Sunday, B.L.U.E.S. Etcetera, 1124 W. Belmont; 525-8089. Monday, Artis’s, 1249 E. 87th; 734-0491. Tuesday, Kingston Mines, 2548 N. Halsted; 477-4646. Wednesday, New Raven Lounge, 8822 S. Stony Island; 374-6010. Thursday and next Friday, February 26, Rosa’s Lounge 3420 W. Armitage; 342-0452.

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