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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Milwaukee Blues Festival

Tonight @ The Milwaukee Theatre, 7 p.m.

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For better or worse, because of Milwaukee’s proximity to Chicago, our city’s blues festivals are dominated by shredding, electric-blues guitarists, but the lineup at the Milwaukee Blues Festival bucks that trend, prioritizing soul over volume. At age 80, headliner Bobby “Blue” Bland still sends chills down audiences’ spines with his soulful gospel tunes. Bland grew up just outside of Memphis, a hotbed for blues artists like W.C. Handy and Furry Lewis, and his music draws from that city’s unmistakable R&B tradition. A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee who never found commercial success that matched his critical acclaim, Bland will share tonight’s bill with other artists whose work trends as much toward soul and R&B as blues, including Bobby Rush, Theodis Ealey, O.B. Buchana, Millie Jackson and Ms. Jody.