Used to be blues-picking folkies were a dime a dozen. Fortunately, most of the cut-rate ones have left the scene, allowing artists like Chris Smithers to take center stage. Smithers is a storyteller whose lyrics, in the great balladeering tradition, often contain wry lessons (he penned Bonnie Raitt’s “Love You Like a Man”); his blues are gritty and heartfelt, and he doesn’t attempt any blue-eyed-soul-brother posturing. What sets him apart, though, is his musicianship: rather than pour on the notes like many latter-generation disciples of country blues, his style is a sparse, deeply emotional one–wrought from the various schools of southern folk blues and the white pre-C&W folk tradition, as well as 60s-era pop-folk melodicism–that tends to linger in the mind longer than other, more technically spectacular styles. But fear not: Smithers is no doe-eyed romantic. When he chooses he can make one six-string guitar sound like a virtual fretboard army, stomping his feet and charging the room with raucous, boogie-rich intensity. Friday, 9 PM, Schuba’s, 3159 N. Southport; 525-2508.

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