Help Osborne 'Relish' Her Success at Riv Gig

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Byline: Dan Kening Daily Herald Music Critic

Joan Osborne, the Geraldine Fibbers - 7:30 p.m. today at the Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine., Chicago. $18.50. (312) 559-1212.

A year ago, practically no one had heard of Kentucky native Joan Osborne, who released a virtually ignored debut album in 1992. But thanks to her belated follow-up, "Relish," and the radio hits "One of Us," "St. Teresa" and "Right Hand Man," Osborne was one of the most acclaimed artists at the 1995 Grammy Awards. Though she ended up going 0 for 5 there, any way you look at it the soulful singer with the frizzy hair had one heck of a year. The question now is, what does she do for a follow-up? Stay tuned. The punky and clever Geraldine Fibbers open.

W.C. Clark - 9:30 p.m. today at Frankie's Blue Room, 16 W. Chicago Ave., Naperville. $7. (708) 416-3310.

If you didn't look at the date on W.C. Clark's new "Texas Soul" album, you'd swear it was something out of the early '70s Memphis soul era. His gritty vocals place him right up there with greats like Al Green and Johnny Taylor, and he mixes in just enough blues with his soul to satisfy all but the most extreme of purists. Oh yes, Stevie Ray Vaughan played with Clark in the Austin, Texas-based Triple Threat Revue and later recorded Clark's "Cold Shot."

Little Charlie and the Nightcats - 10 p.m. today at FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt Road, Berwyn. $10. (708) 788-2118; 9 p.m. Saturday at Shades, 21880 N. Milwaukee Ave., Deerfield. $10. (708) 634-2583.

Since releasing their debut album "All the Way Crazy" in 1987, Sacramento's Little Charlie and the Nightcats have earned an international following for their good time blend of jump blues, Chicago blues, vintage R&B and jazz. Vocalist Rick Estrin specializes in witty originals like "Me and My Big Mouth" from the band's current album "Straight Up!" and plays some pretty convincing Chicago-style blues harp, while guitarist and namesake "Little Charlie" Baty drops jaws with his blazing style that alternates between sophisticated, bebop jazz and greasy blues.

James Carr - 9:30 p.m. today and 10 p.m. Saturday at Rosa's Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage, Chicago. $12. (312) 342-0452.

Twelve bucks is a pretty reasonable price to pay to see a genuine (if reclusive) soul music legend up close. In the mid-'60s James Carr waxed the classic hits "Pouring Water On a Drowning Man" and "Dark End of the Street" before falling victim to various personal demons that curtailed his career. Considered one of the best soul singers of his era, Carr is back in action and will be backed at these shows by Tyrone Davis' Platinum Band. Hopefully that glorious voice is still intact.

Arturo Sandoval - 8 p.m. Saturday at the Prairie Center for the Arts, 201 Schaumburg Court, Schaumburg. $18. (847) 894-3600.

Cuban native Arturo Sandoval is one of the most exciting trumpet players in jazz. A veteran of the Cuban all-star group Irakere that also spawned saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera, Sandoval was taken under the wing of the late Dizzy Gillespie and later defected. Expect to hear a masterful mix of post-bop and Latin jazz.

Robert Earl Keen - 10 p.m. Saturday at FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt Road, Berwyn. $10-$12. (708) 788-2118.

Tired of all the hype about those singer-songwriter types from Texas? …