On other stages...
Windy City Playhouse, Chicago, (312) 891-8985
It’s rare to encounter_a work that “speaks so defiantly in its own voice,” said Alex Huntsberger in NewCityStage.com. Robert O’Hara’s semi- autobiographical play about a young, gay African-American man unfolds as a series of ribald comic sketches involving preachers, relatives, Brooklyn hipsters, and more than a little male nudity. The result is a “scatterbrained”bildungsroman “so raunchy, filthy, and unabashed that it might be offensive if it weren’t so whip smart.” The show “takes a while to ignite”—but when it does, watch out, said Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune. Travis Turner is effectively sardonic as O’Hara’s alter ego, a character who moves from quiet acceptance of his lot to purposeful rage. O’Hara, a chronically under appreci ated playwright, displays a wit that invites comparison with Richard Pryor, In Living Color, and early Eddie Murphy. But really, Bootycandy “makes ’em all look like wimps.”
Alison Krauss Windy City
With the 2017 Grammys only just behind us, “next year’s front-runner has already arrived,” said Glenn Gamboa in Newsday. Alison Krauss’ first solo album in 18 years will be the record to beat for Album of the Year: A collection of covers from a bluegrass/Americana star who already owns 27 Grammys, Windy City injects new life into 10 country songs associated with p ast greats, offering fresh readings on such standouts as Glen Campbell’s “Gentle on My Mind,” Ray Charles’ “You Don’t Know Me,” and Roger Miller’s “River in the Rain.” But don’t get the album’s intentions wrong, said Robert Ham in ConsequenceOfSound.net. “Any fears about Krauss aiming for arena-size sales numbers are quickly wiped away upon the first spin through Windy City.” Though Campbell’s song was a big 1968 hit, “this is a record of Krauss’ personal favorites and deep cuts that molded her sensibility as a performer and songwriter.” None play to the cheap seats; almost all of them “look back to country’s sorrowful, heartbroken roots.”
Ryan Adams Prisoner
Prisoner isn’t merely a heartbreak record— “it’s potentially the heartbreak record,” said Joe Goggins in DrownedInSound.com. Sometime in the twoplus years since the collapse of his marriage to Mandy Moore, Ryan Adams poured his grief into recording a clutch of new songs, and for the first time in quite a while, the 42-year-old has delivered “a real sit-up-and-listen statement.” He’s unusually restrained, musically and emotionally. These are 12 “profoundly sad” songs set against minimal but “consistently pretty” instrumentation that leans heavily on acoustic guitar. But after a “stirring” half-dozen tracks, the album “treads into less affecting territory,” said Patrick Ryan in USA Today. Adams wallows in his pain too long without revealing enough about what went wrong in his marriage. He still has some strong moments left, though, including the guitar ballad “Breakdown” and album closer “We Disappear,” in which he offers a pained bid for closure: “You deserve a future,” he sings, “and you know I’ll never change.”
Even political exile and a kidnapping “have somehow failed to dim the spirit of Tinariwen,” said Timothy Monger in AllMusic.com. The Grammy-winning band, whose distinctive desert blues music weds West African traditions with electric guitars, fled Mali after militant Islamists seized power in 2012, banned popular music, and briefly abducted one member of the band when he was trying to retrieve his guitars. Recorded in France, Morocco, and California, the group’s seventh album is “a work of subtle power,” driven by “the distilled, fine-tuned engine of Tinariwen’s percussive core.” It’s perhaps the group’s most powerful album since 2004’s Amassakoul, said Andy Gill in The Independent (U.K.). Hand drums and shakers add “an urgent, peppery depth” to songs in which bandleader Ibrahim Ag Alhabib and his mates “confront their situation head-on.” As usual, the inimitable energy in these songs derives mainly from “infectiously hypnotic cyclical guitar grooves that wind like creepers around their poetic imagery.” ■