It’s been far too long since ebullient harpist Little Arthur Duncan showed up on the north side; recently he’s been concentrating on running the Artesia Lounge, a cozy little blues bar on West Madison. Duncan’s technique is no-frills: he blows in a harsh warble and sings with ragged emotionalism. Even when his intonation falters he keeps the energy level raw and exhilarating. His trademark number is Slim Harpo’s “Baby Scratch My Back”; characteristically, he takes Harpo’s backwoods paean to relaxation and transforms it into a funky urban house-rocker. When Duncan gets going he’s a one-man perpetual-motion blues machine, dancing and maneuvering himself across the stage and through the room as his band churns out street-level renditions of blues shuffles and R & B standards. Decked out in the classic harmonica slickster’s threads–three-piece suit, porkpie hat, impeccable pocket handkerchief–Duncan somehow manages to exude a hipster’s cool even as he drenches himself in sweat. Tonight and Saturday, Lilly’s, 2513 N. Lincoln; 525-2422. Thursday, Artesia Lounge, 4908 W. Madison; 378-9713.

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