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Guitarist Lurrie Bell, son of harmonica legend Carey Bell, spent his childhood at the feet of such fabled bluesmen as Eddie Taylor, Big Walter Horton, and Pinetop Perkins. By his mid-20s Bell’s resume included recording sessions with Eddie C. Campbell and Eddy Clearwater, stints with Billy Branch’s Sons of Blues and Koko Taylor, and several overseas tours. Then, in the late 80s, his personal life began to veer out of control; his debut as a leader, 1989’s Everybody Wants to Win (JSP), was acclaimed but seemed unlikely to salvage his career. Recently he’s regained some equilibrium, at least in the studio: on 1995’s Mercurial Son (Delmark) he writhed, screamed, and whammy barred through a series of hallucinatory vignettes penned by Blues Before Sunrise host Steve Cushing; Bell’s follow-up, 700 Blues, was tamer but more coherent. On his most recent Delmark offering, Kiss of Sweet Blues, he rides the easy shuffle of Dave Specter & the Bluebirds with newfound grace, and his leads blend string-melting fury with eloquence and precision. Paying to see Lurrie Bell perform is still a gamble–even the liner notes to Kiss of Sweet Blues compare watching him onstage to being “mesmerized by someone about to play Russian roulette”–but when he’s on, his splintered runs and length-of-the-fretboard fusillades have a terrible beauty that’s only sharpened by the threat of collapse. Thursday, 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 Susan Greenberg.