Link Wray | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Link Wray 

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If you judge him solely on his discography Link Wray is a marginal figure, author of a few superbly sinister chord progressions and not much more. But the dirty, aggressive sound of his guitar playing--legend has it he poked a hole in his speaker to get the buzzing distortion on his 1958 classic "Rumble"--has made his name synonymous with badass rock 'n' roll attitude. In over four decades as a performer he's had some ups ("Rumble" was a minor hit, he was cited as an influence by folks like Pete Townshend, and he did some terrific work in the late 70s with rockabilly stylist Robert Gordon) but a whole lot more downs (prolonged stretches as a nostalgia figure, tons of mediocre recordings), which make his recent Shadowman (Hip-O) seem relatively remarkable. Wray, who's pushing 70 and has spent most of the last 20 years living with his Danish wife in Denmark, isn't doing anything new, but what he's doing sure sounds good. A horrible singer, he chooses to croon on half the record--his sickly take on Hank Williams's "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You)" has to be heard to be believed--but his rhythm section is lean and tough, and when he sticks to the guitar his gut-punching tone sounds as menacing as ever. He rarely plays in the U.S. these days, and reportedly earlier shows on this tour have been spectacular. He'll be supported by members of the wacky San Francisco country-rock band Dieselhed. Monday, 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-527-2583 or 312-923-2000. Peter Margasak

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Joe Dilwarth.

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