ERNIE WILLIAMS & THE WILDCATS

It’s pretty rare these days for veteran bluesmen to be “discovered” after years of obscurity, but bassist and vocalist Ernie Williams proves that there may still be some truth in that cliche. Though he’d worked for years in neighborhood venues in New York City and Albany, Williams was unable to expand his reputation until 1993, when he assembled his rough-and-ready band the Wildcats (Williams’s old street nickname had been Wildcat Quick Ernie Lash). Led by guitarist Mark Emanatian, they began gigging in rock clubs throughout the Albany area, and they eventually recorded Sun Goin’ Down on the homegrown Wildcat label. On that disc, along with the current I Remember, Williams demonstrates a refreshingly unforced versatility: he immerses himself in a spectrum of musical and emotional expression from wistful blues balladry to roadhouse rockers. His lyrics are unusually personal, even poignant, and his Wildcats, though predictably rock influenced, take their cues from Williams and remain rooted in a tasteful blues groove. Williams’s brand of workmanlike artistry is becoming increasingly rare in this age of flash and vapid flamboyance, but it’s what the blues needs if it’s to remain viable as an art form. Saturday, 9 PM, Buddy Guy’s Legends, 754 S. Wabash; 427-0333 or 427-1190. DAVID WHITEIS

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