Kate MacKenzie | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Kate MacKenzie 

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Although Twin Cities bluegrass singer Kate MacKenzie has long fronted the group Stoney Lonesome on Garrison Keillor's radio show--and even played with them at Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall--it wasn't until the release of last year's terrific solo outing Let Them Talk (Red House) that she stepped out to perform on her own. Saturday's gig marks her Chicago debut. Her broad-ranging, gospel-inflected bluegrass places her in the company of individualists like Emmylou Harris and Iris DeMent. She possesses a powerful voice and the striking ability to navigate a variety of settings. Whether fronting the gospel quartet Fairfield Four on "He Knows How Much We Can Bear," nailing "Down on the Riverside" (the Los Lobos rewrite of the Soul Stirrers' "Wade in the Water"), injecting twangy bounce into the Delmore Brothers' "Pan American Boogie," adapting a Snooks Eaglin standard, or gliding through a couple of new Greg Brown tunes, MacKenzie easily adapts a variety of genres to her own style. The pair of originals on the album also suggest she's no slouch at writing, and despite the semimodernist trappings suggested by her eclecticism, MacKenzie conveys a firm appreciation for tradition. Saturday, 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 525-2508.

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