Guitarist Lurrie Bell is one of the most enigmatic figures in modern blues–his performances and his career spin from inspiration to catastrophe with dizzying unpredictability. On Mercurial Son, his aptly titled latest disc, Bell’s voice quivers with the intensity of the damned–he rips chords into shreds and creates an atmosphere of nightmarish dissociation and despair. Most of the lyrics were penned by WBEZ Blues Before Sunrise DJ Steve Cushing. Frighteningly violent one minute, scabrously sexual the next, they’ve become a source of some controversy; as a portrait of a man possessed by fires that threaten to consume him, they’re hauntingly unforgettable. Recently Bell’s been leading jam sessions around town–his performance at this year’s Chicago Blues Festival was one of his most focused and satisfying in recent memory. But don’t expect complacency: if he decides to unfurl his spellbinding interpretation of Buddy Guy’s “A Man and the Blues,” be prepared to have your soul shredded; if he digs into the terrain he mined on Mercurial Son, you may be in for one of the most disturbing–and memorable–blues experiences in a long time. Friday and Monday, 9:30 PM, Rosa’s, 3420 W. Armitage; 342-0452. DAVID WHITEIS

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo by Susan Greenberg.