The ranks of the west-side blues scene have been sadly depleted in recent years by illness, emotional deterioration, and even murder, but this contemporary funk/soul/blues outfit gives renewed reason for hope. Rick “Smooth” Smith’s keyboard work lends a breezy pop sophistication to the more metallic stylings of guitarist Greg Maddox, and both drummer Bill Murray and bassist Mel Thornton are propulsive yet know enough to remain out of the way of the soloists. Meanwhile vocalists Roy Barnes and Rosa Bailey are a delightful throwback to the great male-female R & B duos of bygone days, but despite a fondness for Smokey Robinson and other 60s-era stalwarts, Sudden Exposure is far from a nostalgia act. Bailey puts a no-nonsense feminist spin on tunes like Betty Wright’s “Tonight Is the Night,” and her gospel-rich soprano ascends over the band’s hard-funk backing with the bravura exuberance of a less overwrought Patti LaBelle. Barnes is less flamboyant vocally, but his repertoire of dexterous spins and steps adds further panache. Then there’s the life-affirming warmth of the show itself: in the great soul tradition this group remains true to the celebratory spirit of the music’s gospel roots while staring down the day-to-day despair of contemporary life. Friday and Saturday, 9 PM, Lilly’s, 2513 N. Lincoln; 525-2422.

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