Honeyboy Edwards With Devil In A Woodpile – Hideout Inn (Chicago, IL)
If you dropped by Chicago’s Hideout Inn any Tuesday evening in the past eight years, you were likely to find acoustic blues revivalists Devil In A Woodpile playing for tips in the homey joint’s little wood-paneled front bar.
If you were especially lucky, you might have picked a night when the band was joined by a guest they’d befriended: guitar player and singer David “Honeyboy” Edwards.
One of the last living links to the Mississippi Delta dawn of the blues, Honeyboy was born June 28, 1915, in the Delta town of Shaw, which sits on Highway 61. According to the folklore that surrounds his life story, Edwards learned guitar from Tommy Johnson, played at Charley Patton’s funeral, gigged regularly with Robert Johnson, and was there the night Robert Johnson died. Alan Lomax recorded Edwards at the storied Stovall Plantation in 1942; a decade later, Honeyboy settled in Chicago, where his sound evolved with the genre and his electric slide playing earned notice.
For the first few years of Devil’s Hideout residency, an Edwards appearance came around more or less annually. They have been far less frequent of late, though, maybe owing to Honeyboy’s advancing age, or the demands of a tour schedule that would tie up and tucker out artists young enough to be his grandchildren.
Preceding two high-profile performances set to celebrate his 90th birthday, this gig was a warm-up for Edwards. It started with him seated stageside while Devil’s singer Rick Sherry, bassist Tom Ray and guitarist Joel Paterson warmed up the crowd. Soon enough, Honeyboy took gingerly to the stage, was handed his guitar, and slipped into Howlin’ Wolf’s “Ride With Me Tonight”.
This wasn’t Honeyboy at his best. The set list was mostly well-ridden old warhorses like “I Feel So Good Today” and “Sweet Home Chicago” (which he posits a very dubious claim to have written), his playing and singing seemed slightly ragged, and though he’s a mischievous storyteller, between songs he hardly spoke.
Even so, the night was special. There were flashes of brilliance in his slide work, which could turn on a dime from playful to fierce; he’d lag behind the beat, then abruptly bounce back with a sharp flurry of notes. His long, yellow-nailed thumb and raw, moaning throat drew out both notes and words, elongating them for maximum effect.
Those talents have seen Honeyboy Edwards through most of a century and around the world. At this rare Hideout gig, they gave pleasure to a hundred happy hometown fans.