The World Band is one of the busiest backing groups on Chicago’s blues scene, playing behind long strings of singers and soloists at south- and west-side revues and regularly accompanying vocalists like Lil’ Johnny Johnson, Laretha Weathersby, and Lee Morris. This kind of versatility doesn’t necessarily translate into excitement, though: a broad repertoire often seems to come at the expense of really impassioned performances, and can make a band sound like little more than a jukebox. Fortunately, the World Band is rescued from anonymity by lead guitarist Walter Scott, whose fiery improvisational drive animates everything from crisp descending chord patterns straight from the Jimmy Rogers lick book to metallic post-70s funk-blues fusillades. Jeremiah Africa’s keyboard work shimmers like satin under Scott’s restless, sometimes hyperkinetic solos, and unfaltering drummer Warrin McClain brings a dash of fatback funk to even the most basic shuffles. Johnson and Weathersby will each join the World Band for a set at this show, but Walter’s brother Howard is the vocalist to watch here: draped in vintage hipster finery, eyes hidden behind shades, he sways, lurches, and prowls the stage, growling out traditional 12-bar shuffles and contemporary soul blues with a slinky sensuality that never crosses the line into salaciousness. What his gravelly voice lacks in suppleness it makes up for in intensity, and he doesn’t stop working until the audience is as sweaty as he is. Friday and Saturday, October 20 and 21, 9:30 PM, Checkerboard Lounge, 423 E. 43rd; 773-624-3240.


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