Baton Rouge native Larry Garner was rejected by at least one American record label for being “too blues,” but judging from the music he’s putting down these days he’s far from being a purist. Garner infuses elements of funk, R & B, and tinges of post-Hendrix fretboard madness into the countryish southern Louisiana swamp blues tradition. The result is an emotionally intense but musically understated meld of technical virtuosity and elegance. The real treat, though, is the lyrics: topical without being trite, ironic without succumbing to postmodern ennui, Garner’s tales run the gamut from vividly drawn vignettes of juke joint life through thoughtful meditations on hard times and the redemptive powers of compassion. Although he tells stories of struggle and determination with disarming intimacy, he doesn’t descend into Sensitive Male posturing: his occasional forays into scabrous sexual signifying are either celebrations of a venerable folk heritage or borderline macho excess, depending on your point of view. If the blues remain viable it will be because of forward-looking young artists like this. Friday and Saturday, 9:30 PM, Rosa’s, 3420 W. Armitage; 342-0452. DAVID WHITEIS

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