Smokey Smothers is a gentle, profoundly resilient man with a deep, abiding love for the blues and an ability to overcome personal setbacks that have endeared him to a new generation of blues fans in the 1980s. Featured for some years with his band, the Ice Cream Men, Smokey is currently working in a solo setting that showcases him to his greatest advantage. His Delta-style picking perfectly complements his famous lazy, “mushmouth” vocal style and wryly humorous lyrics, and without the encumbrance of a rhythm section he’s able to indulge his delightfully eccentric ideas about timing and slide work–melodious, Muddy Waters-style crispness one minute, outrageous high-treble, off-the-fretboard screaming the next–in a way that leaves listeners shaking their heads in admiration, bewilderment, and disbelief. Over the long haul Smokey’s music sometimes falters, especially when he delves into contemporary, post-60s blues that he really shouldn’t attempt, but he’s still one of the few modern bluesmen to have honed a truly personal style while remaining immersed in tradition. Sunday, 5 PM, Wise Fools Pub, 2270 N. Lincoln; 929-1510. Tuesday, B.L.U.E.S., 2519 N. Halsted; 528-1012.

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