Jimmy Burns | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Jimmy Burns 

JIMMY BURNS

Jimmy Burns has a honeyed croon that harks back to his teenage days with the Medallionaires, one of Chicago's fabled 50s doo-wop groups, but he's also picked up the multifaceted guitar technique and varied tastes of a seasoned juke-joint scuffler. He's recorded for a few local labels since doo-wop faded, but not until 1996, when he was 53 years old, did he cut his first full-length as a leader, Leaving Here Walking, which he followed up with last year's Night Time Again (both on Delmark). On the latter he reinvents Howlin' Wolf's "Shake for Me" by setting the lyrics to a hybrid of Freddie King's "San-Ho-Zay" riff and a driving shuffle; he also updates the Major Lance dance classic "Monkey Time" with a harsh guitar line, while his jubilant vocals retain the sprightly innocence of the original--and though this compulsive eclecticism can be distracting, it results in some striking stylistic blends. Burns's own songs occasionally descend into blues-raunch cliche ("Why You Wanna Start a Fight?"), but more often he lays genuinely vulnerable lyrics over soaring melodies that alternate between moody minor-key verses and exuberant ascending choruses. He'll be joined on this gig, which Rosa's has billed as a "Westside Blues Extravaganza," by guitarist Eddie Taylor Jr., a resolute traditionalist who's learning to personalize his note-for-note imitations of his late father's seminal style; keyboardist Detroit Junior, a flamboyant showman and powerful boogie-based rocker whose ravaged voice can still call to mind the rambunctious potency of his old bandleader, Howlin' Wolf; and harmonica ace Mad Dog Lester, a veteran of Bo Diddley's early bands and one of the few remaining harpists who specializes in the sweet tone and exploratory style pioneered by Little Walter. Friday, 9:30 PM, Rosa's Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage; 773-342-0452. Burns also plays Saturday at 9:30 PM at Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 S. Wabash, 312-427-0333; and Wednesday at 9 PM at Famous Dave's, 734 N. Clark, 312-266-2400.

DAVID WHITEIS

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

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