Sleepy LaBeef | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Sleepy LaBeef 

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

At the right wee hour, a good jukebox can make time disappear--every song feels present tense, direct and personal. When you hear Sleepy LaBeef referred to as "the Human Jukebox," think of him in that sense. LaBeef's repertoire, which he estimates contains 6,000 songs, reflects the diversity of the music he heard growing up in Arkansas in the 30s and 40s--hillbilly and western swing, jump blues, R & B, urban blues, gospel--and he delivers it all with the immediacy of a man singing it for the first time and taking it to heart. On his most recent CD of new material, 2000's Tomorrow Never Comes (MC), LaBeef applies his basso profundo roar to honky-tonk classics like the title song (a hit for Ernest Tubb in 1945) and Hank Williams's "The Blues Come Around," digs deeper into his roots on the Flatt & Scruggs bluegrass warhorse "Rolling in My Sweet Baby's Arms," and resurrects long-lost C & W nuggets like the Bailes Brothers' mid-40s lament "I Want to Be Loved." He also immerses himself jubilantly in the swamp-noir goofiness of Tony Joe White's "Polk Salad Annie." The only time the deeply religious LaBeef sounds less than convincing is when the material calls for nastiness, lasciviousness, or intoxication: he croons rather than snarls the title command of Big Joe Turner's "Honey Hush," and his in-concert version of Dave Dudley's "Six Days on the Road" finds the weary narrator "drinking hot black coffee" instead of "taking little white pills" to stay awake. Thursday, April 15, 9 PM, B.L.U.E.S., 2519 N. Halsted; 773-528-1012.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
February 18
Performing Arts
February 08

Popular Stories