James Peterson & Lucky Peterson | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

James Peterson & Lucky Peterson 

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Before he turned five, guitarist Lucky Peterson had made his stage debut, playing his father James's nightclub in Buffalo; in 1971, at age six, he charted with "1-2-3-4," one of the last hit singles Willie Dixon produced. By his teens he was touring with some of the biggest names in contemporary blues, and in 1984 he recorded his debut LP, Ridin', during a break from his European travels with Bobby "Blue" Bland. Subsequent discs cemented his reputation as a fiery player, with a sound rooted in 12-bar tradition but strongly influenced by 60s deep soul and post-Hendrix flamboyance. On last year's Double Dealin (Blue Thumb) his intricate, searing leads cut through a thunderous blues-rock backing that would've overwhelmed a lesser mortal; the album's less aggressive tracks, like the horn-leavened soul-blues "Where Can a Man Go" and the funk-propelled "Mercenary Baby," give Lucky room to relax, so that a serpentine sensuality creeps into his playing. James, born in Alabama in 1937, was also raised around music--his father owned a juke joint too. James moved north and established himself as a guitarist in Gary, Indiana, and then upstate New York before returning to Alabama in the 90s; his most recent disc, 1998's Wrong Bed! (HownDog), is an earnest if unfocused melange of amiable 12-bar boilerplate and fiercely emotional soul blues. He's occasionally self-indulgent (the bathetic deathbed melodrama "Four Little Boys," his clownish yodeling on "Cryin' Time"), but his guitar leads shimmer gracefully and his tough, supple voice has an elastic vibrato that never threatens his sureness of pitch. Lucky contributes rhythm guitar, keyboards, and backup vocals, but he sounds uncharacteristically muted throughout the album, as if he were making an effort not to overshadow his dad. Onstage, though, Lucky and James will have no place to hide from each other: they'll either reconcile their very different contemporary blues styles or make a splendid mess trying. Friday, February 1, 9:30 PM, and Saturday, February 2, 10:00 PM, Rosa's Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage; 773-342-0452. James will also play a show of his own Thursday, February 7, at 9:30 PM at Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 S. Wabash; 312-427-0333.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/James Fraher.

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