Traditional blues the traditional way

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The inside cover of Nick Moss' new album is of pictures of him in the studio holding his first born, 16-month-old daughter Sadie Mae.

He named the album after her, and the cover shot is an image of his arm with her name tattooed on his bicep.

¤ Nick Moss and the Flip Tops ¤ 10 p.m. Thursday ¤ The Tugboat Grill & Pub ¤ $5 ¤ 879-7070

The message seems to be that Moss is moving into a new phase of his life, and he's happy about it. At 35, Moss is relaxing into his roles as father and musician.

Moss grew up in Chicago and started playing with the city's blues men when he was 17 years old. At the time, his mentors were all in their 70s, 80s and 90s.

Chicago blues music wasn't a popular genre for teenage boys. It still isn't, he said, but Moss had been raised on the music of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Otis Rush from his parents' record collection.

Moss' big learning experience came when he joined renowned bluesman Jimmie Rogers' band as a guitar player. Rogers is a founding member of the Muddy Waters band.

Moss played with him for four years.

"He was a big mentor for me," Moss said. "There's nothing more important to blues than timing and feel, and he taught me that. He taught me how to use my ears."

At first, Moss emulated the old-timers, repeating other people's styles and chords.

But the blues is like a spirit that enters the body of a musician. Soon, Moss didn't have to copy anyone. The blues just poured out of him in the style of the masters.

His playing style has earned him a reputation as the torchbearer of traditional Chicago blues.

Don't expect a lot of flash from Moss' performances. Instead, expect to see someone playing traditional blues "the way it's supposed to be played."

Moss said he tries to lead his audience through a history of the blues beginning in the 1930s and moving to the present.

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