Cyrus Hayes | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Cyrus Hayes 

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CYRUS HAYES

This Arkansas-born vocalist and harp player is one of the better-kept secrets in Chicago blues. A mainstay on the west side since the early 80s, he's recorded only a few tracks for small labels and an album, Are You Ready for Love, that he released a few years ago on his own Sea Dog imprint. The album suffers from murky production and stiff rhythm tracks, but it gives a tantalizing hint of Hayes's stage show: his range extends from alto croon to piercing falsetto, and his melismatic flutters and curlicues add humor and emotional resonance. He's strongest on soul/blues numbers like Tyrone Davis's "Turning Point" and the title song (a 1979 hit for the Spinners), though his harsh harmonica squalls also add urgency to his 12-bar blues. Audiences on the west side often request dance songs, so Hayes's repertoire is full of well-worn standards, but occasionally he'll slip in a tune like the wry "Mr. President," which showcases his wit as a lyricist ("The bedbug told the roach / Everything's gonna be all right"). He's learned to use his falsetto shriek as a punctuation mark rather than a gimmick, and he mimics his own vocal gymnatics almost note for note with harp skitters and sharp-toned jabs, melding a deep commitment to the blues with an impish sense of fun. Friday and Saturday, 9:30 PM, Rosa's Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage; 773-342-0452.

DAVID WHITEIS

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