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Nora Jean Bruso

Sunday, December 31, at Wilbert's.

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Blues fans better heed songwriter Jerry Ragavoy's advice to "Get it while you can," because we're down to a handful of elder statesmen; Robert Lockwood's recent departure made this point crystal-clear. Fortunately, classic Chicago blues is still alive and kickin' -- as is the tradition of bad-ass blues broads -- thanks to the balls-out power of Nora Jean Bruso. When Bruso belts out a tune, she recalls a youthful Koko Taylor shakin' the ground from a South Side bandstand 50 years ago. And for good measure, Ms. B drops the sassiness of Etta James into the mix.

Hell, a better blues bio could only come out of Hollywood: Born into a family of blues and gospel singers, the Mississippi-bred Bruso hung out regularly at her grandmother's juke joint. Hitting the Windy City in the '70s, she eventually fronted guitar master Jimmy Dawkins' band. Her solo career launched in earnest with a splash at the 2002 Chicago Blues Festival, while Bruso's last disc, Goin' Back to Mississippi, makes a serious case for her power as a performer. Get it while you can, indeed.

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