Bill Gilmore, proprietor of Bill's Blues Bar in Evanston, IL, is fond of guitarist/vocalist L.V. Banks. The South Side bluesman hits Bill's Blues every 6 weeks or so. He was holding down the middle of the evening on this past Saturday (between the indie rock group and the reggae D.J. that came on after midnight). If you like your blues raw, unpolished, gritty and loose, L.V. is your guy. By the way, Mr. L.V. Banks is not related to the late, great Chico Banks (I checked with L.V. last night).
He is no youngster - he celebrated his 76th birthday this year. L.V. arrived in Chicago in the 1960's from Greenville, Mississippi - he is in the second generation of Delta blues artists that came to Chicago to try to make a living; about the same age as Buddy Guy and Eddy Clearwater. In L.V.'s case, stardom didn't come knocking. He has played the clubs in Chicago for over 40 years; he finally got his first record out in 1995. The second disc was released in 2000 (both were issued by Wolf Records, a European label). That is the sum total of his recorded output over four decades as far as I know. L.V.'s son, Tre' Hardiman, is one of the "young gun" blues guitarists in town - yeah, the apple don't fall far from the tree.
L.V. Banks and the Swingin' Blues Band is a casual group. They kick off their songs in a relaxed fashion and build the groove around L.V.'s stinging guitar tone and effective vocal style. Banks likes to banter with the crowd ("So what y'all want to hear next? Fast or slow blues?"). The band stuck to the Chicago blues repetoire - "Hoochie Coochie Man" was covered; so was "Rock Me Baby." An attempt to fulfill a request for an Al Green tune ("Love and Happiness) ended badly. But the band's blues was as real as it gets.
L.V. and I know each other, a little, so he called me up and I played harp and sang a couple of tunes. Mr. Banks is a gentleman and it was a joy to play with him - a very comfortable experience on a very cold night.
Anyone in Chicago that loves pure blues needs to see L.V. Banks. His music used to be played in every other tavern on the South Side in the 1950's and 1960's. Catch him before he is gone...