Magic Slim & the Teardrops | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Magic Slim & the Teardrops 

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MAGIC SLIM & THE TEARDROPS

Magic Slim emerged fully formed from the south-side blues circuit in 1975 with the single "Wonder Why" and its B-side, "Teardrop," recorded for Mean Mistreater--the label run by his drummer at the time, blues DJ Steve Cushing. His first stateside full-length, Grand Slam (Rooster Blues), followed in '82, and though Slim still plays the same mix of boogie-charged shuffles and back-alley screamers he did on that album, he's not in a rut: he's stuck with his signature style for all these years because he's never run out of new things to say with it. Few guitarists can coax as much heat from a single fretboard position--he'll start with a tight bundle of notes, then unwind into a sinewy lead that he'll chop off short or stretch out into a sensual shiver--and his leathery vocals sound tender and truculent at once. On Snakebite (Blind Pig), Slim's latest disc with his long-running band, the Teardrops, he shows off his songwriting and even tries out fresh musical directions on a couple tracks: the title tune features second guitarist Michael Dotson on slide, and "Key to Your Door," penned by Slim's bassist and brother, Nick Holt, is a lean soul-blues number that sounds like it's fighting its way out from under a heap of scrap metal. Slim slows down Muddy Waters's "Country Boy" to a bone-crunching tempo, and his solo writhes like a snake on a pitchfork; where Muddy sang "I don't know what's going on," Slim proclaims "I always will do you wrong!" His trademark brew of free-floating menace, frustrated desire, and Saturday night bacchanal comes through best on his version of Little Milton's "Lump on Your Stump": Slim threatens everyone in earshot, and sounds downright jubilant doing it. Friday, 9:30 PM, Famous Dave's, 739 N. Clark; 312-266-2400. DAVID WHITEIS

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

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