Born in Mississippi in 1946, bluesman Percy Strother lost both parents while still a boy and took to the road, preferring to drift from job to job rather than endure life in an orphanage. His father had taught him a little guitar, but it wasn’t until he settled in Minneapolis, his current home, that he took up the blues in earnest, developing a fiery fret style and a smoldering, sensual baritone. On everything from ragged 12-bar Delta blues to modern soul-blues and funk, he and his band sound like they’ve come straight from the toughest corner on Lefty Dizz’s “Bad Avenue”–where “the men carry shotguns / And the women, they got pistols too!” On disc, unfortunately, his vocals often suffer from a timbral and rhythmic stiffness, and his solos sometimes feel restrained. His 1993 debut, A Good Woman Is Hard to Find (Blue Loon), and its follow-up, Highway Is My Home (Black Magic), were tentative fusions of rootsy sincerity and funky aggression. It’s My Time (JSP), a 1997 album of originals, was more relaxed and confident, but his only output since then has been a somewhat arch collection of blues standards, Home at Last (Black & Tan). Onstage, however, Strother has the determined ease of a lifelong journeyman; his solos erupt and his vocals have a wicked Stagger Lee strut. His songs burst with the pent-up sorrow and frustration of years of scuffling, but they’re more than inarticulate howls: he has the discipline and vision to channel his outpourings of emotional energy into uncompromising, direct, and affecting music. Friday and Saturday, 9:30 PM, Rosa’s Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage; 773-342-0452. Tuesday, 9:30 PM, Buddy Guy’s Legends, 754 S. Wabash; 312-427-0333. DAVID WHITEIS
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mark Brett.