Harpist Snooky Pryor was among the coterie of musicians whose classics on small labels like Marvel, Old Swingmaster, and J.O.B. in the late 40s and early 50s helped define postwar Chicago blues. Their music–rough and raucous where others were becoming urbane, vibrant with country imagery and down-home phrases when artists like Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon were fusing traditional themes with hard-edged, big-city swagger–showed clearly the connection between southern tradition and the burgeoning urban style. Pryor’s sound has changed little over the years: influenced by both Sonny Boy Williamsons, his highly emotional playing is still characterized by a keening tone and concise phrasing. His voice, with its rapid vibrato harking back to the preblues folk forms, has lost none of its power, and his lyrics have a combination of elegance and ribald wit (“Your daddy was a preacher / Your mammy was an alley cat”) that put them solidly in the African-American oral tradition. Tonight through Sunday, Rosa’s, 3420 W. Armitage; 342-0452.

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