Cyrus Hayes | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Cyrus Hayes

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Chicago soul music tends to fall into one of two categories: light, danceable pop (Jan Bradley's "Mama Didn't Lie," Dee Clarke's "Raindrops") or churchy testifying (the music of Otis Clay, McKinley Mitchell, or Lee "Shot" Williams). Cyrus Hayes combines these extremes and adds a healthy dollop of blues, blowing a boisterous harmonica and prodding his band into a gritty, down-home groove that contrasts with the smoothness of his vocals. He also does soul balladry, dusky and romantic in the urban-contemporary vein. Hayes has an expressive range, from throaty murmur to pleading tenor, punctuated with his trademark falsetto wail. His stylistic leaps can make for a rather schizophrenic presentation, but there's something encouraging about a singer unafraid to span the gap between tradition and trendiness and able to carry it off with cool aplomb. Hayes is a west-side mainstay who remains virtually unknown east of Western and north of Madison--another in Chicago's legion of unfairly overlooked musical talent. Tonight and Saturday, Lilly's, 2513 N. Lincoln; 525-2422.

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