The world premiere musical 'Lonesome Blues' is the true story of the legendary bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson: born blind, but ultimately able to express his deepest emotions through music. More…
Discovered on a street corner in the Deep Ellum section of Dallas, Texas in 1925, Jefferson made more than 80 records over the next four years, becoming one the most prolific and influential performers of his generation and propelling the growth of rhythm and blues, soul, doo-wop, rap, and hip-hop.
"It is a tour de force performance, with the actor-singer ruminating on Jefferson’s life and singing his repertoire. Developing a distinct, wounded personality, he exhibits the inner longings and passions that Jefferson expressed, in addition to singing a vast number of songs in the style associated with the man who had such an influence on the art of the blues...To the credit of Babatundé, one comes away with a solid impression of the man and his life." Full Review
“Though Babatundé’s Texas accent, likely close to authentic, makes it difficult to understand some of what’s being said, the performer delivers forceful personification. Confident vocals slip/slide with terrific range and evocative accentuation. Lyrics that insinuate do so with flair. The actor somehow communicates Jefferson’s blindness. Overall feel of Jefferson’s oeuvre is spot on. That material runs one into the next a bit too similarly seems the fault of eliminating other voices.” Full Review
“Lemon is embodied with stunning authority by Babatundé...’Lonesome Blues’ hits the stage with a grand assuredness about what it wants to say and wants to do...The narrative is fairly short on specifics....But it’s the music that is the heart of the show, and Babatundé delivers it with a rich musicality...If the show falters in any way, it’s that it threatens at times to become survey-like...Nevertheless, ‘Lonesome Blues’ impresses one mightily with the scope and feeling of its subject’s art.” Full Review
"Akin Babatundé is giving a heck of a concert in 'Lonesome Blues' at the York. Babatundé's voice travels from pure falsetto to rumbly bass and back again, and it can thrill every step of the way...However, 'Lonesome Blues' is billed as a musical rather than a concert, and on that level it is less successful...Unfortunately, his story is not clear as written, performed, and directed, and it can be hard to tell who he's talking to and what he's saying. As a result, the show is never really eng... Full Review
“Babatundé is a charismatic performer. His training as an actor can make the singing too polished at times, but it also allows him to physically embody the character and move through the history of the story gracefully...Although the music captures the difficulties of being an itinerant and blind black musician, Jefferson’s songs...will have you tapping your toes and clapping along to the music in this simple yet powerful one-man show.” Full Review
“The show is sometimes confusing and lacking in fluidity, suffering from truncated musical numbers, abrupt shifts in character, and staccato breaks between the random thoughts being recounted. And the context in which the story is set doesn’t become clear until the closing song...But like the style of the music itself, ‘Lonesome Blues’ is more about feeling than narrative, and Akin Babatundé skillfully delivers.” Full Review
“Refreshingly intimate...The whole piece is sung in a talkin’ blues style...Weiss accompanies the singer on a folk guitar...The connection between the two is palpable...The musical arguably runs a whiff too long, and could benefit if a couple of songs were cut from the piece...Babatunde has the pipes and acting talent to give flesh-and-blood to the legend...This show doesn’t have the glitter and dash of a Broadway musical. But it does have soul.” Full Review
"In an evocative production, the York Theatre Company's world musical salutes Blind Lemon Jefferson...'Lonesome Blues' is not exciting theater. It is not even great fun but its emotion honors the soul of the blues with innovative performances by Babatundé accompanied on guitar by David Weiss. Directed by Katherine Owens, Babatundé poetically expresses Jefferson's era and his psyche, shouting or moaning feelings as he traces his life." Full Review
“If you love the blues and Blind Lemon Jefferson in particular, you will really enjoy this show. Quite a lot of Blind Lemon Jefferson's music is sampled in this show...The show was put together with what the authors could find out about the artist's life, and the record was sketchy and may not be completely accurate...Tour de force performance...It can feel rather long and tedious at times especially for anyone who is not really a fan of the blues.” Full Review
“The storytelling in this creation is a tad convoluted, rarely finding its spirit and the internalized beat. The singing wanders around from good to impressive but never hitting that emotional high we keep waiting for. Oddly enough, Babatundé is more engaging when he takes on the voice and mannerisms of the ladies who came into his life. He seems to connect to their internal life more clearly, as the rest of the time, the threads of Jefferson don’t come together in a compelling narrative.” Full Review
"His narrative, delivered in a thick Southern drawl, is sketchy and poetic, with a number of sequences in which Babatundé changes his voice to play various characters…The script plays second fiddle to over 30 songs…Most of the blues songs…are in the classic vein, but this creates a sense of repetitiveness over the course of the show's intermissionless hour and 25 minutes…The result is a biographically inflected blues concert for aficionados, not the wider public." Full Review
“Features Babatundé’s awesome performance...but unfortunately muddled storytelling...There’s a lack of background information imparted and so despite the great renditions it becomes stultifying...In the second half...the narration is more connected to the musical portions as it successfully concludes...Owens brings presentational polish to the production with her assured staging that injects as much momentum as possible given the problematic material.” Full Review
"The authors have struggled to put together a coherent narrative out of the few pitiful scraps of information available to them, and the result is one of the sketchiest entertainments to grace the York's stage in some time...After a while, the text of 'Lonesome Blues' comes to feel like so much wallpaper between the numbers...Babatunde's singing is a bit mannered; the blues don't seem to come naturally to him...Owens' direction at least maintains a quick pace." Full Review
See it if If you like the blues or American roots music. Of if you just like to hear the unamplified voice of a great singer
Don't see it if If you don't care for the blues or American roots music
See it if You like blues, you like history of music, for a nice night out, Mr Babatunde became all the characters he portrayed. Great singing too
Don't see it if You don't like blues, or one man shows. Or if you expect elaborate stage or sets. Just sit back and enjoy
See it if you like a solo show with one actor and one musician, both very talented, telling the story of a singer through the use of songs.
Don't see it if you do not like solo shows or like a show with a plot. Very simple set.
See it if you love early blues and want to experience a great blues icon...with bits of his history.
Don't see it if you are expecting a biography of Jefferson or don't care for early blues music
See it if You like old 1920s and earlier blues. You’re interested in the life of Blind Lemon Jefferson. You want to hear great singing.
Don't see it if You want something lighthearted or modern. You want a show with a definite plot or in depth anecdotes. You don’t like the blues.
See it if You like blues music and learn about struggle of a blind musician during great depression.The music was great and the actor was entertaining
Don't see it if You do not like one man show or blues music per se. there is no intermission and the elevator (few flights down) was out of order.
See it if you enjoy early blues music & want to learn about an oft-forgotten progenitor of the form as told & sung by the engaging & skilled Babatunde
Don't see it if you have a low tolerance for rambling storytelling or the tedium of repetitive blues riffs.
See it if you are a big fan of the blues especially Blind Lemon Jefferson.
Don't see it if if you do not like the blues, if you do not like or are unfamiliar with Blind Lemon Jefferson and/or if you don't like one person shows.
See it if You appreciate the history of American music and blues or want to learn about it through the life of Jefferson. Fantastically acted and sung
Don't see it if If you don’t like one man shows or shows without intermission. If you have trouble climbing stairs as the theater is down 5 flights and up 1
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