Although grounded in the guitar-oriented, rock-influenced blues considered “mainstream” by modern white audiences, Larry Garner’s sound includes enough soulful seasonings–fatback percussion, churchy organ, and his own grainy, gospel-tinged vocals–to be attractive to soul-blues aficionados as well. His lyrics are among the most trenchant in contemporary blues, even if he sometimes seems to step back from their implications: The breezy funk-blues arrangement of “Where Blues Turn Black,” from last year’s Once Upon the Blues (Ruf), all but drains the blood from lines like “They’ll lay your wounds wide open / And salt them with lies, guilt, and shame.” And the rowdy exuberance of “A Real Gambling Woman,” a grinding, stop-time blues heated up by Seiji Yuguchi’s harp squalls and Garner’s own sparse but piercing solo, detracts a bit from the pathos of a household torn apart by the lure of easy money. But Garner can also breathe new life into tried-and-true themes with his offbeat sense of humor: In “I Ain’t the One” he rebuffs a fan’s advances, but not because he fears an angry husband–he’s rattled by her “Picasso fingernails” and kinky sexual proclivities. And “That Was Her Dance,” propelled by Ernest Williamson’s burbling organ vamps, is an affectionate portrait of an eccentric juke-joint reveler who “rattled when she twitched.” Even when a song falls short musically, it’s likely to be redeemed by its words: “Klepto” is saved from total boogie-cliche overload by Garner’s thoughtful lyrics about the woes of being romantically involved with a compulsive shoplifter. It’s heartening to see a young bluesman make his mark with meticulous craftsmanship instead of pyrotechnic overkill. Tuesday, January 23, 9 PM, B.L.U.E.S., 2519 N. Halsted; 773-528-1012. Wednesday, January 24, 9:30 PM, Buddy Guy’s Legends, 754 S. Wabash; 312-427-0333. Friday, January 26, 9:30 PM, Famous Dave’s, 739 N. Clark; 312-266-2400.