Pat Rushing with Willie James & the Maxwell Street Blues Band

Blues historians mythologize Maxwell Street for its virtuosos–Moody Jones, Robert Nighthawk, Big Walter Horton–but to taste the real soul of the market you have to experience someone like Pat Rushing. For years Rushing personified the street’s most uncompromising musical aesthetic. Grimacing and strutting like a deranged shaman, he’d roar out his lyrics in a guttural rasp that sounded alternately demonic and prophetic, and the sound he wrenched from his guitar–dissonant and undisciplined but utterly spellbinding–tore into you with an intensity that was almost brutal. It’s been years since Rushing, who renounced the hard life for the church in the 80s, has played the blues in public. Whether he still has his chops–and whether his brand of back-alley aggression will be able to hold its own in the genteel atmosphere of Lincoln Park–remains to be seen. But if he’s retained even a trace of his old pugnacity, this comeback appearance should be unforgettable. Coheadliners Willie James & the Maxwell Street Blues Band–whose sound is less raucous than Rushing’s but cuts just as deeply–will double as his backup band. Friday and Saturday, 9 PM, Lilly’s, 2513 N. Lincoln; 525-2422. DAVID WHITEIS

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