Once you find out about Billy Thompson, it seems surprising that you didn’t already know about him. He plays a driving, original kind of electric blues, building carefully woven songs out of inspired guitar playing and soul-felt vocals. He’s played on bills with B.B. King, Buddy Guy, The Neville Brothers and far too many other acts you know to list. He gets talked about by the media (like the Los Angeles Times, “impassioned singing and blazing guitar works”) and by other great artists (like Bobby “Blue” Bland, “really fine guitar playin”). He has a new album out called “A Better Man”, and he was at Rosa’s Lounge in Chicago on Friday, March 16 for a really inspired show.
Thompson’s performance blends a quiet, comfortable audience rapport with a blistering musical presence every time he starts to play. His band is outstanding, and the four of them manage to meld an incredible range of musical style into a seamlessly consistent set. You’re only watching a four-piece blues band — drums, bass, guitar and keyboards — but you end up on a tour of The World of Billy Thompson. Straight up Chicago blues as a tip to the city and the club (and Rosa’s really is a great club), intricate and melodic atmospheric tracks, the best kind of West Coast blues rock, and all of it glued together with Thompson’s flawless vocal drive. Next time this band shows up near you, you really need to figure out a way to be there.