Katie Webster, the “Swamp Boogie Queen” is one of blues and R & B’s most respected veterans. Her Louisiana career extends back to her 1959 work with the Ashton Savoy band, and her early recordings on various Lake Charles and Crowley labels are prized by collectors. She’s at her best when her thunderous boogie piano and bracing, soulful vocals are given plenty of space; unfortunately, she often surrounds herself with loud, funky sidemen as likely to drown her out as raise her up. But it’s worth waiting for those moments when she shuts the band down, hunkers over the keyboard, and lets her gifts shine: her left hand pumps out furious eight-to-the-bar rhythms while her treble embellishments burn with vintage Louisiana R & B fire. Her sweet-sour vocals soar ecstatically on rockers and moan with aching passion on ballads. In her uncompromising stage presence, the power of her delivery, and even her refusal to modify her show to please know-it-all critics she demonstrates the single mindedness that’s kept her going in the rough, male-dominated world of R & B. Her rare local appearances are not to be missed. Saturday, Shades, 21860 N. Milwaukee, Prairie View; 708-634-2583.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Peter Amft.