Sonny Rhodes | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Sonny Rhodes 

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Just when you think there's nothing unique left under the blues sun, along comes an artist like Sonny Rhodes. Rhodes is from Texas, and he absorbed the usual influences--the smooth jazziness of T-Bone Walker and the jump bands, the stinging virtuosity of Freddie King, the sophisticated balladry of Bobby "Blue" Bland and Percy Mayfield. But unlike some, he's neither stuck in a T-Bone tribute mold nor obsessed with trying to out-raunch every phlegm-voiced roadhouser in the Lone Star State. Rhodes's leads are shimmering and extended, snaking through the twists and turns with a strong sense of direction. Especially arresting is his unusual lap-held steel guitar--the notes writhe and squirm with a piercing tonal intensity, like Elmore James being squeezed through a wringer. No one writes lyrics like Rhodes ("I loved a women / But she got cancer from smoking cigarettes!"), and few can segue as effortlessly from a straight-ahead blues ballad to a funk-drenched rocker, bringing equal amounts of conviction to each. Saturday, Rosa's, 3420 W. Armitage; 342-0452.

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