Oscar Chavez | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Oscar Chavez's 30-plus-year career, during which he's released more than 70 recordings, has made his name something of a household word in Mexico; he's known for both his interpretations of traditional songs and his own compositions, many of which feature satirical political comment. I've heard this guy described more than once as a sort of Mexican Johnny Cash--and to judge from what comes across on his live recordings, it's an interesting comparison, one that refers as much to the persona Chavez projects as to his actual music. His relaxed tenor is hardly what you'd call craggy, and at times he flaunts a mile-wide streak of singsongy Latin sentimentality--but at his best, like Cash, he slams his songs home through sheer force of personality. I make no pretense to expertise on the subject of Mexican folk music--indeed, much of the pleasure I get from spinning Chavez tapes is in the easy introduction they give to a fairly wide range of Mexico's folk song idioms. Unlike some Latin American singers, Chavez delivers each song with an unadorned, unhurried conversational ease that's especially helpful if your comprehension of Spanish is as feeble as mine. Of course, if that's the case, you're likely to miss a lot of the political content--but given the stylistic and emotional breadth of Chavez's repertoire, it shouldn't make listening to him much less interesting. Friday, 7 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield; 472-0449.

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