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Mention west-coast blues and most people usually think of the smooth, jazz-inflected stylings pioneered by T-Bone Walker and carried into the present day by veterans like Charles Brown and Floyd Dixon. LA’s Smokey Wilson, however, has never abandoned his Mississippi Delta roots. Wilson’s slide-guitar slithers and stings with an intensity somewhere between the distorted ecstasy of Hound Dog Taylor and the keening viciousness of Elmore James. Even when he updates his sound to include post-B.B. King string bends and arpeggios he retains a sense of primal fervor. But though he sings with the same throaty vibrato and tonal aggression that characterize the Mississippi tradition, Wilson is also a skilled modern lyricist: his “88th Street Blues,” for instance, is as sharply drawn a slice of urban blues life as you’re likely to encounter this side of the late Lefty Dizz’s “Bad Avenue.” This kind of no-frills electric urban blues is becoming a rare commodity, even in Chicago, so catch it while you can. Wilson is featured as part of the Bullseye Blues label’s Smokin’ 5th Anniversary Tour, whose bill also includes Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Pat Boyack & the Prowlers. Saturday, 10 PM, Buddy Guy’s Legends, 754 S. Wabash; 427-0333 or 427-1190.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by E.K. Waller.