Passion for the Blues

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Susan Tedeschi's first album, "Just Won't Burn" will be released nationally next month by Tone-Cool, a subsidiary of Massachusetts-based Rounder Records, but she's making her L.A. debut tonight at B.B. King's.

On her album cover, singer-guitarist Tedeschi looks like the proverbial girl next door. The kind of gal who might help you with your math homework, if you asked her nicely enough. But once the disc is in the machine, that illusion is jarred by opening lines of the first cut, "Rock Me Right."

"You say you haven't been rocked in a long, long time," Tedeschi sings with a red-hot passion. Her powerful voice has a fine gravel and her fiery delivery is bold and brassy. At first listen, comparisons to the ultimate red hot mama, Janis Joplin, are inevitable, but Tedeschi says Joplin was not a really big influence on her style.

"[My vocal style] it's a combination of listening to a lot of people," Tedeschi said. "From Ray Charles to Aretha Franklin."

Born in 1970, Tedeschi has been singing since age 5. Additionally, she played clarinet and piano growing up, and only took up the guitar a few years back. In 1991, Tedeschi graduated from Boston's famed Berklee College of Music, where she studied big-band arranging.

"I really enjoy the big-band sound, but I never went into that," she said.

After leaving Berklee, she immersed herself in the Boston blues scene where she established herself as a rising young star.

She has performed at the House of Blues in Cambridge and at B.B. King's in Memphis, in addition to performing at many festivals including the King Biscuit Festival in Arkansas.

Her debut album's music covers a wide variety of styles.

"Anything with a good tune and some soul sounds good to me," Tedeschi said. She even includes "Angel From Montgomery," the classic John Prine tune with a decidedly country flavor.

"I used to sing a lot of country before I started singing the blues," she said. "But, I did that one 'cause my dad really loves that song."

* Susan Tedeschi performs at 8 tonight at B.B. King's, Universal CityWalk. (818) 622-5464. $7.

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A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME: Bob's Yer Uncle is an 11-piece R&B; cover band that's performing at the Classroom on Saturday night.

George Thompson plays guitar in the band. And he's also the one responsible for the band's unusual name.

"Bob's Yer Uncle" is a colloquial expression used in the Toronto, Canada, area where Thompson lived for a few years. It roughly translates to "So, there you have it."

"It's from the 1920s. It was Depression humor, I guess," Thompson said.

Bob's Yer Uncle's present lineup has been together for about four years. Besides Thompson, the band includes J.D. Bender on keyboards, Pete Gallager on drums, Elde Stewart on bass, Bob Sofsky on harmonica, Steve Sadd and Harley Lipton on saxes, Jeff Lewis on trumpet, Carl Casino, Michael Dasaro and Laurie Freitag on vocals.

"We like to play very obscure or very old songs and rearrange them," Thompson said. These include tunes such as War's "Slippin' into Darkness" or Joe Cocker's "Pardon Me, Sir," plus a lot of blues and swing numbers.

"We're not the best players in the world. But what makes it work is that we've played together a lot and we're all great friends," said Thompson.

"It's really a labor of love, and when I say labor, I really mean it."

* Bob's Yer Uncle plays Saturday night at the Classroom, 8333 Tampa Ave., Northridge, (818) 885-0250. No cover.

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SHORT TAKES: The Country Club Brewery and Restaurant, 19530 Nordhoff St., is a new place in Northridge where the Hamburger Hamlet used to be.

Not to be confused with the Reseda Country Club, this place features its own handcrafted brews, food and music Thursdays through Saturdays. Dave Kopatz plays heartfelt tunes from the 1970s and '80s tonight and Saturday; Stan Bush performs Friday. (818) 773-4677.

Buddy Miles will be at B.B. King's Saturday. Drummer-singer Miles burst upon the national rock scene in the late 1960s with the band Electric Flag, which also featured Mike Bloomfield on guitar.

Later Miles performed with Jimi Hendrix in the Band of Gypsies and then fronted his own group, the Buddy Miles Express. $15 cover.

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