Lee Morris | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Lee Morris 

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Like many "authentic" bluesmen, Lee Morris was born in Mississippi, sang in church as a kid, and moved to Chicago in the 60s--which makes his aggressively contemporary style all the more unusual. Even his lyrics are devoid of the down-home imagery that can make Chicago blues seem like such a cliche: in the title track from his 1995 breakthrough album, Morris Code 337 (Da-Man), he admonishes a mistress to page him using "Morris Code," where "337 upside-down spells Lee!" His latest Da-Man release, Whip It on U, features an undiluted rap number, "Got 2 Get Wit U," and even its bluesiest offerings, like the cuckold's lament "Who's Been Rockin" and the two-chord soul cooker "Get It B 4 U Get Home," are propelled by programmed rhythm tracks. But Morris's bedroom balladry is suitably seductive, and many of the tunes ("Sex Me Up," "Slow Dance," "Ain't No Woman") feature rich vocal harmonies that lend them an air of old-school soul elegance. A highlight is the lush arrangement of "Crazy," which recalls the Temptations chestnut "Gonna Keep On Tryin' Till I Win Your Love"; it's an intriguingly perverse backdrop for the words, which basically constitute a self-serving apology by a narrator who "goes crazy" if his woman isn't either with him or waiting for him at home. Much of Morris's recent music may strain the boundaries of what a lot of listeners think of as blues or even soul-blues, but I think it's encouraging to see a guy from his generation exploring ways to make the music relevant to younger listeners. The World Band, one of the south side's premier show bands, will back him for this gig; the versatile group can get gritty enough to provide a bluesy edge to his poppier material. Friday and Saturday, 9:30 PM, Rosa's Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage; 773-342-0452.



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