Ernie Williams | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Ernie Williams 

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Albany, New York, isn't usually thought of as a major blues center, but it's been home to bassist Ernie Williams for more than 30 years. He had a solid reputation in the clubs of Albany's old African American South End until the twin demons of urban renewal and social deterioration killed off the scene. Slowly Williams has expanded his horizons, and now, as he approaches his 70th birthday, he's basking in the light of his "newfound" popularity outside the old neighborhood. His vibrato-laden voice is sweet and deep-toned and capable of evoking both sensuality and despair, the twin poles of blues passion. His basswork is both sure-fingered and mercifully sparse: like most of his generation, he learned early on that what you leave out can be more important than what you put in. His young band the Wildcats is predictably rock-oriented, but only occasionally does it cross the line from fiery eloquence to pyrotechnic excess. Perhaps the most exciting thing about Williams is the depth of his repertoire: he's got a lifetime's worth of original songs, just a few of which are on his new disc on Wildcat Records. Friday, 9:30 PM, Rosa's, 3420 W. Armitage; 342-0452.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Dino Petrocelli.

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