Review: Linsey Alexander’s gritty, funky Chicago blues

Linsey Alexander, 77, moved from Mississippi to Chicago in 1963. “Live at Rosa’s” was released May 15.

Nothing at all about deep dish Chicago blues sounds pretty. But the electrifying nature of the music attracts like a magnet. There’s nothing pretty about Rosa’s, either. But being jammed around one of the funky little lounge’s tables while a monster band goes at it on their beat-up stage is as close to being in blues heaven as you can get.

Roaring singer and guitar slinger Linsey Alexander led one hell of a monster band there for a two-night stand in May 2019. With Sergei Androshin on guitar, Chicago legend Roosevelt “Hatter” Purifoy on keyboards, Ron Simmons on bass, and Big Ray Stewart (of Big Ray & Chicago’s Most Wanted) on drums, Alexander lit some intense blues fires each evening.

Born in Mississippi, Alexander spent a short time in Memphis before migrating to Chicago in 1963. He’s been playing the blues in blues town ever since. Incredibly, he sings with the passion of a teenager, but with 77 years of sharp experience too. Fluid style and ingenuity radiate from his guitar. He often gets lost in the moment when he stabs at it, but never loses sight of the ultimate goal — to entertain.

The lucky, rapt patrons in the room had certainly never heard “Have You Ever Loved a Woman” done with this type of Windy City street sting, with the title phrase changed to “I love a woman” and “Put my tongue down her throat,” ad-libbed. But Alexander slides that all in with the same instinctiveness that the band commands the groove with. Again, not pretty, but absolutely knock down killer.

When they follow that up with Alexander’s own “I Got a Woman,” the pace kicks up into a massive, Magic Slim and the Teardrops-styled slam, Alexander ripping notes full of soul. Alexander played for a spell with Slim, so the late, great blues man’s mojo here isn’t surprising, and it sure is welcome.

“Snowing in Chicago,” another of Alexander’s, blows through as a stupendous romp with scorching flights of guitar work and organ playing. Then it’s on to Junior Wells’ “Ships on the Ocean,” a long, slow, steamboat full of Chicago blues passion. Alexander and his band make major statements throughout these nine songs and 55 minutes, qualifying this as one of the best straight Chicago blues albums I’ve heard in some time. Like the TV commercial says, “A body in motion stays in motion.”

From the sounds of things found on “Live at Rosa’s,” Linsey Alexander should be around a long time yet, to kick our asses.

-Tom Clarke 

  • Linsey Alexander
  • ‘Live at Rosa’s’
  • Label: Delmark Records
  • Release: May 15, 2020

ABOUT Tom Clarke

Tom Clarke
From pre-war blues to the bluegrass of the Virginia hills, Tom Clarke has a passion for most any kind of deep-rooted American music, and has been writing about it for 23 years. He’s particularly fond of anything from Louisiana, and the 45-year timelines and ever-growing family trees of The Allman Brothers Band and Los Lobos. Tom’s reviews and articles have appeared in BluesPrint, the King Biscuit Times, Hittin’ The Note, Blues Revue, Elmore, Blues Music Magazine, and now, Tahoe Onstage. Tom and his wife Karen raised four daughters in upstate New York. They split their time between the Adirondack Mountains and coastal South Carolina.

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