When Booba Barnes fires off his raucous guitar leads and growls the blues in a voice reminiscent of Howlin’s Wolf, the amenities of modern urban life seem to dissolve and you’re transported to some backwoods Delta juke joint with sawdust on the floor, bottle-in-bond whiskey being sold under the table, and dancers boogying away until daybreak. Famous in Greenville, Mississippi, as both a performer and club owner, Barnes exploded into the national consciousness in 1990 wth a fiery LP on Rooster Blues; since then he’s been rocking houses from coast to coast with his distinctive blend of flamboyant showmanship and riveting emotional commitment. He blows harp as if he’s trying to outscream the wind, and his guitar work strips the fluff from even the most tired blues cliches: riffs and songs you thought you’d never want to hear again come roaring back to life in Barnes’s hands. He’s slowly developing a repertoire of originals to complement his covers of material by the likes of Wolf, Little Milton, and Bobby “Blue” Bland–in his mid-50s, this incendiary bluesman is just hitting his stride. Tonight, B.L.U.E.S., 2519 N. Halsted; 528-1012.

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