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Chicago Blues Festival 2000

After last year’s outpouring of complaints about the lack of big-name talent at the Chicago Blues Festival, the Mayor’s Office of Special Events has put together a heavy-hitting main-stage lineup that should help restore some of the respect journalists, musicians, and fans have lost for the free fest in recent years. Little Milton, Johnnie Taylor, […]

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Aaron Moore

Pianist Aaron Moore moved to Chicago in 1951, and he’s since played as a sideman for everyone from B.B. King and Little Milton to local figures like Clarence “Sonny Boy Williamson Jr.” Anderson; he even claims that Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters both tried to recruit him. Though he relocated to Milwaukee a few years […]

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20 Miles

Fat Possum Records, launched nine years ago in Oxford, Mississippi, is best known for rough-edged recordings of modern Delta blues shouters like R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, and T-Model Ford; the label’s owners, Matthew Johnson and Bruce Watson, coaxed rural players off front stoops and out of juke joints, much as John Fahey and Bill Barth […]

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Grady Freeman

Blues vocalist and harpist Grady Freeman spent the 50s alongside such future legends as Junior Wells and brothers Dave and Louis Myers, and in the early 60s he gigged around Chicago with the likes of Little Walter and Otis Rush. In 1963 he signed with Chess Records, and though he recorded a number of R […]

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Alejandron Escovedo

The track listing for Alejandro Escovedo’s new studio album, Bourbonitis Blues (Bloodshot), his first in three years, makes it doubly clear that the Austin singer-songwriter isn’t exactly in a prolific phase. Of the nine cuts, only four are originals, and one of those, “Guilty,” appeared in a different version on With These Hands (Rykodisc) in […]

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Ali Farka Toure

Blues legends like John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and J.B. Lenoire are often cited as the closest thing to Ali Farka Toure, but at the core of the Malian guitarist’s music is a sumptuous beauty that is beyond comparison. Last year’s stunning Talking Timbuktu (Hannibal/World Circuit) paired Toure with producer Ry Cooder and Clarence “Gatemouth” […]

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Ali Farka Toure

Ali Farka Toure sometimes sounds like he has one foot planted in the Mississippi Delta and the other in the Niger. His work is deeply rooted in Malian tradition; in one interview he explained that he sings about “education, work, love, and society.” But although he sings exclusively in West African languages, he sounds like […]

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A.C. Reed & the Sparkplugs

Veteran saxophonist A.C. Reed is something of an anomaly among contemporary blues hornmen: his style seems to owe more to the raucous guitar sound of early-60s Chicago guitarists like Buddy Guy than to the roadhouse honkers who usually provide the inspiration for blues horn blowers. His repertoire consists primarily of straight-ahead Chicago-style burners interspersed with […]

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Alex “Easy Baby” Randall

This appearance of harpist Alex “Easy Baby” Randall is an important event: although still a Chicago resident, Easy Baby has been virtually unheard for years. He’s a member of that vital second echelon of Chicago blues artists who made solid reputations for themselves in neighborhood clubs, cut a few records and influenced younger musicians, but […]

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Albert King

Albert King’s smooth, string-bending guitar passion complements a voice that’s one of the most expressive in modern blues, capable of bringing equal conviction and skill to dusky balladry and barrel-chested macho. His fretwork, though not as technically amazing as that of nonrelatives Freddie and B.B. King, is as polished and stylized as any on the […]

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Why Buddy Guy runs from the blues

Few blues musicians bear the burden of history as heavily as Buddy Guy. Along with fellow west-siders Magic Sam and Otis Rush, Guy stormed onto the Chicago scene in the late 50s with a searing, high-voltage guitar attack augmented by tormented lyrics, a passionate vocal delivery, and an energy level far more intense that that […]

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Alex Chilton

Lester Bangs said that the Velvet Underground “invented the 70s.” That’s an exaggeration–they’d have done a better job–but it’s no more of one to say that Alex Chilton invented the 80s a decade early. Stuck inside of Memphis with the downwardly mobile blues, Chilton turned from teenage Box Top to torrid iconoclast. His signature band, […]