James “Snooky” Pryor’s broad-toned, rhythmic harmonica lent its flowing emotional intensity to some of the most significant blues recordings of the 1940s and ’50s, most notably those by Floyd Jones (“Stockyard Blues,” “Schooldays on My Mind”) and Sunnyland Slim. (“Goin’ Back to Memphis”), and he remains an accomplished purveyor of the music he helped bring into being during those vibrant, creative times. His a career as a solo artist, although it extends back almost as far, has been somewhat less recognized than his important role as sideman. That’s a pity, because his deep-chested vocals and intuitive understanding of the driving impetus that is the traditional Chicago blues shuffle combine with his expressive, Rice Miller-influenced harmonica style to create a sound that’s exhilarating, well-crafted, and as entertaining as any you’ll find in the blues. At 66, Snooky lives a robust, healthy life as a farmer in southern Illinois, and his visits to Chicago are rather infrequent. Here’s a chance to see one of the major figures of the blues, and to share in a feeling of optimism and healthy durability that’s becoming all too rare. 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.