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CRITICS' CHOICES

POP MUSIC
BUILDING A REPUTATION

Ever wonder how musical reputations get built? Consider the case of Joanna Connor, the Massachusetts native who has been making a name for herself in Chicago ever since she got off the bus there with her guitar six years ago. The first time she came to Nietzsche's, 248 Allen St., in 1989, she left a small but appreciative crowd raving about her prowess as a blues guitarist. Impressed by her debut album on the Blind Pig label, "Believe It!," this writer caught her second show there last January and came back to write things like "Connor redefines the notion of what a female slide guitarist can do."

Nietzsche's proprietor Joe Rubino, one of Connor's biggest fans, brought her back again in October, filling his publicity with quotes from that January review. This time the club was packed. What was even more surprising was the response from those who were there. For days afterward, people came up and thanked me for turning them on to this great performer.

Tonight, Connor makes her fourth visit to Nietzsche's, and the recommendation still stands. First of all, Connor is quite simply the best female slide guitar player around. Secondly, she has studied her blues sources well, from Freddie King to Robert Cray, and peppers her music with quotes from all of them. Third, she has a hot little band behind her. Fourth, she ventures well beyond the standard blues repertoire, picking up songs that range from Aretha Franklin's big hits to the blues-rock favorites of the '60s and '70s. Connor is doing three sets, starting at 11 p.m., and once again this lady should not be missed.

-- Dale Anderson

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