Now that he's approaching legal age, Mike Welch has dropped the nickname "Monster Mike," a great name when he was blowing people's minds and playing with Steve Cropper at age thirteen (at a Cambridge, Mass., House of Blues opening -- a dark day for many local guitar has-beens). The prodigy image is a gimmick he wants to survive as, heading into his twenties, he reaches for modern bluesman cred. His lead guitar method is directly descended from the fiery blast of Albert King, fluid and clean, but dangerous enough. Of the pack of younger statesmen in the blues today, Welch has always been the meanest and most palatable, playing a flashy, rocked-up style he has worked hard to personalize. But he has been faced with more than a few detractors pulling their hair out and crying, "Stevie Ray!" While he may not be the purists' cup of tea, Welch is evolving and will certainly continue playing and improving. After all, it's not his fault he picked up a guitar at eight years old and turned out to be good at playing it, and at least he doesn't have beautiful blonde girly-hair.