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L.V. Banks: Ruby

Ed Kopp By

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Thanks to the mid-'90s blues revival, a handful of deserving Chicago blues musicians managed to land recording contracts after years of hard labor in the clubs. A prime example is South Side bluesman L.V. Banks, a fine guitarist and soulful singer who's been plugging away at the blues thang for 40-plus years.

Like so many of his peers, Banks cut his teeth in the Mississippi Delta before relocating to Chicago. Inspired by Little Milton, Howlin' Wolf and B.B. King, Banks taught himself guitar and led his own band in Greenville, Miss., before moving to Chi-Town in 1965. Despite 30 years as a blues fixture in the city, Banks didn't secure a recording contract until 1995 when Austria's Wolf Records released his debut, Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear.

Ruby is Banks' sophomore effort, and it's a fine one. His 10 original songs incorporate many familiar blues riffs, but his vocals are charming and his guitar work is pleasingly gritty. The album features Banks' regular band — Michael Thomas (rhythm guitar), Jerry Price (drums) and David Kay (bass) — along with talented pianist Allan Batts.

Little Milton's influence can be heard on the title track "Ruby," an upbeat love song with a funky groove. Banks' tremulous guitar licks lead the way on "Express Love" and "I Love My Guitar," two tracks strongly evocative of B. B. King. Though Banks' 10 original songs are peppered with guitar phrases borrowed from classic blues tunes, they groove along in raw Chicago fashion, and his band is nice and tight. Pianist Batts adds many agile two-fisted runs. The CD closes with a rousing gospel-inflected version of the Bobby Bland classic "Love Light." Also included is a catchy cover of T-Bone Walker's "Bobby Sox Baby."

It's good to hear a contemporary blues guitarist who's more influenced by soul and classic blues than head-banging rock. L.V. Banks has been around the block, and clearly he's learned a few tricks along the way.

Title: Ruby | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Wolf Records

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