Toronzo Cannon is as good a representation of Chicago blues today as you’re likely to find: born and raised in the projects on the south side near Theresa’s Lounge, playing in blues bands behind local players Tommy McCracken, Wayne Baker Brooks, L.V. Banks and Joanna Connor, the singer/guitarist formed his own band in 2003. He sees a Chicago that few people see because he’s CTA bus driver. That perspective has informed his songs through five albums now. As you might have guessed from the album title, he doesn’t shy away from social commentary. In a contemporary R&B setting, “The Preacher, The Politician and The Pimp” points out the similarities of each in modern society with unerring accuracy. A fast boogie groove underlies his definition of the way things are done in “The Chicago Way”. This is the first single from the album, the name of his last album and the name of his band now too. The high cost of medical “Insurance” is more of a traditional blues, with Billy Branch on harmonica. Label prez Bruce Iglauer gets to play the fee-charging doctor. It’s not all serious though, “Stop Me When I’m Lying” has a series of vignettes, for some of which he might not be lying. He has a horn section on this one and Roosevelt Purifoy gets some solo time on piano. “The Silence of my Friends” is a powerful song, Cannon bemoaning the fact that his friends stay silent when someone says something that’s plainly unacceptable. He picks up his National Steel for “The First 24”, another powerful song comparing his life to that of his ancestors who lived through slavery and lynchings. He has a couple of more humorous songs including “Ordinary Woman” but concludes with the most ambitious of his serious ones. “I’m Not Scared (of the heartache)” features guest vocalists in various family settings: Lynne Jordan as an abused wife, Cedric Chaney as a gay son and Maria Luz Carballo as a recent refugee. Cannon lets them tell their stories with former employer Joanna Connor guesting on slide. Cannon’s voice and guitar are highlighting subjects that need to be addressed and doing it the Chicago way. Long may he continue. Go to www.alligator.com.

Blues Revival #5 Featuring Kalyna Rakel
October 2019 - Arsen Shomakhov