Chicago blues
Chicago, Illinois

Dubbed “the Future of the Blues” by the Chicago Reader newspaper, Melody Angel is a powerhouse vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter born and raised on the south side of Chicago. With strong, no-nonsense vocals and thoughtful lyrics that reflect her passion for racial and gender justice, Angel’s singular sound draws upon elements of R&B, rock, folk, and funk, all layered on a strong bed of Chicago blues. 

At first glance Melody, the kinetic 32-year-old guitarist whose blistering chops on her purple Fender Stratocaster call to mind two of her idols, Prince and Jimi Hendrix, might seem an unlikely heir to the legacy of Chicago blues. She points out, however, that “Traditionalists are always saying they want you to sound exactly like Muddy or Koko … but nobody else sounded like Muddy or Koko. I think they forget how innovative the blues was back then, how everybody had their own style.” In fact, Angel’s relative Otis Rush became a legendary figure for creating the “West Side Sound” in the 1950s, weaving the popular sounds of R&B into Chicago blues. Melody’s uncompromising music builds on Chicago blues’ legacy of innovation with such verve that last year the Chicago Sun-Times dubbed her “Chicago’s next blues star.”

Growing up on the South Side, it was the guitar that obsessed Melody. Money was too tight to ask for an instrument and lessons, so she spent hours each day watching videos of her favorite guitar players, analyzing their styles and dreaming up her own licks. By the time she was 15 and her mother bought her that purple Fender at a local pawnshop, it took mere months with a guitar in her hands before she was winning open mic nights and forming her own band. Angel never got to play with her famous cousin Otis Rush, whose health failed just as she began her career, but she’s proud to carry on his legacy—and the legacy of the women in her family who were powerful soul and gospel singers, including her mother Stephanie Crystal, who will sing backing vocals for her daughter at Lowell as she does on every tour. 

In 2014, Melody scored a regular gig at the legendary Rosa’s Lounge, and since 2016 she has headlined at the world-famous Chicago Blues Festival. Chicago blues, she says, “is my legacy … it runs through my veins.”