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Regina Carter plays Chicago's Symphony Center / Chicago Tribune concert review

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What is American music? It's earthy and real, down-home and straight-ahead, by turns gutsy and gentle and simple as a gospel song or complex as a jazz fiddler's solo.

A thousand different beats and tones make up music in this polyglot country of ours, and few performers could have delivered the point as urgently or poetically as the two great women of music who packed Orchestra Hall on Friday night. Technically, singer Mavis Staples and violinist Regina Carter were appearing on Symphony Center's jazz series, but no single genre or mode of expression really could contain their musical interests.

Sharing a double-bill, they took on a vast swath of musical culture in America reaching back in time, from the civil rights anthems Staples dispatched with fire to the old Appalachian folk tunes Carter played as if born to that era. The spirit of folkloric American song filled this night, inspiring the audience to get up on its feet more than once, as if to lay claim to a music that truly does belong to all of us.

Violinist Carter – a musical free-thinker who won a MacArthur Fellowship in 2006 – opened the evening and established its historic template, drawing from the ethereal repertoire on her new Southern Comfort album. To prepare to make it, Carter researched the field recordings of John Work III, Alan Lomax and other intrepid souls who long ago took their bulky old equipment into rural settings and captured songs and manners of singing and playing that otherwise would have been lost. READ THE FULL Chicago Tribune ARTICLE.