Uvee Hayes | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Although she's begun to make a name for herself on the southern blues and soul circuit, Saint Louis's Uvee Hayes remains virtually unknown here. At a time when stentorian bellowing has become the norm for aspiring blues mamas, Hayes takes a subtler approach, laying her vocals into, not over, the accompaniment and forcing the listener to sit up and pay heed. On her cover of Betty Everett's "There'll Come a Time" (the title track of her latest CD on the Mission Park label), her soft-edged, somewhat nasal soprano fuses innocence with wounded bluesiness in a way that recalls Esther Phillips in her prime. For "BYOM (Bring Your Own Man)," set to a throbbing dance-floor beat, Hayes affects a sex-kitten-with-claws persona: "Dress to assassinate if you want to," she tells potential rivals, then warns them to bring their own men to the party as "cover charge." Without sacrificing the brittle prettiness of her voice, Hayes toughens her delivery for the energetic "Get Your Dance On" and slyly inverts convention by ending rather than beginning her phrases with blue notes. When singing about a broken heart, as on the wronged-woman ballad "One Side Relationship," Hayes somehow manages to turn her soft timbre into a signifier of determination, using a nasal sneer and bitten-off enunciation to undergird her sorrow with indomitable toughness. It's that much more effective because she does it all without raising her voice. Howard Scott & the World Band open. Friday, April 2, 9:30 PM, Rosa's Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage; 773-342-0452.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bill Greensmith.

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