Guitarist Deborah Coleman came to the blues through a circuitous route–she’s credited the Monkees as her initial musical inspiration, and her teenage years were spent in rock and pop bands. But in the late 80s she toured with a rhythm and blues aggregation that leaned heavily toward the latter, and, after discovering how deeply this music spoke to her, took some time off to immerse herself as thoroughly in the contemporary blues world as she could. Coleman emerged from this hiatus an accomplished stylist, and she’s spent several years building a reputation as a vibrant and dynamic live performer. Her debut, I Can’t Lose, showcases sure-toned, aggressive playing that owes significant debts to Texas barn burners like the late Albert Collins, embellished by a creative melodic imagination that allows her to convey passion while mostly avoiding the multinote overkill that too many young guitarists rely on. Coleman’s voice still needs some seasoning, but overall the album–brash and sassy yet emotionally open, with a sensual strut as well as a sense of pride and determination–reflects an artistic maturity that would be notable in a veteran. On Friday Coleman will open for Robert “Junior” Lockwood, who traveled the Delta with Robert Johnson and later played a significant role in creating the postwar Chicago style. At 82, Lockwood remains a versatile artist who refuses to conform to anyone’s dictates but his own–these days he’s as likely to pull out pop-jazz standards like “Misty” as the deep blues that initially brought him fame. Friday, 9:30 PM, Buddy Guy’s Legends, 754 S. Wabash; 312-427-0333. Saturday, 9:30 PM, Rosa’s, 3420 W. Armitage; 773-342-0452. David Whiteis
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Jim Purdum.