Mavis Staples & The Blind Boys of Alabama
Page Auditorium, Duke Campus—The last few years have been golden for fans of veteran female soul singers, with vital releases from Bettye LaVette, Candi Staton, Irma Thomas and Betty Harris. The most powerful statement came from Mavis Staples in the form of last year's We'll Never Turn Back. The album is the perfect meeting of singer, collaborator (Ry Cooder) and compositions, many of which she calls "freedom songs." The turbulent times of the Civil Rights movement called for hopeful songs—"Eyes on the Prize" and "We Shall Not Be Moved"—and on We'll Never Turn Back, Staples revisits them with the spirit of a participant, survivor and eternal optimist, all with a voice for the ages. For this latest installment of Duke Performance's Soul Power series, Staples is joined by a group that navigated those same churning waters, the Blind Boys of Alabama. Led by original member Jimmy Carter, the Blind Boys merge traditional and contemporary gospel styles to create Mavis-worthy songs of joy and commitment, such as the second-line funk take on "Free at Last," which opens the brand new Down in New Orleans. They're not turning back, either. The show starts at 8 p.m., but it's sold out, so get there early with your cash and a smile. —Rick Cornell
Chest Pains, Dead to Society
Broad Street Café—Two of Durham's fiercest trade blows: Both Chest Pains and Dead to Society contribute to the night's house specialty of hyperbolic booze, hammering guitars and hoarse vocals. Chest Pains will provide the anger and catharsis; the co-ed Dead to Society will supply the positive message and head-bopping. Both guaranteed to rock. Raleigh's experimental Left Outlet also plays. Tickets are $5-$7, and the beat snaps your neck at 9 p.m. —Dan Strobel
The ArtsCenter—New Jersey-to-Nashville guy Greg Trooper is the complete singing/ songwriting package. He can tell a story in a song and between a song, tackle Bob Dylan and Warren Zevon when he's not sharing one of his well-crafted tunes, and handle recording with country-soul legend Dan Penn. Tickets are $14, and the music starts at 8:30 p.m. —Rick Cornell
Because We're Still Here (And Moving)
The ArtsCenter—Though officially recognized during the shortest month of the year, black history has attracted an extended gaze from one local group.
Cedar Grove-based Hidden Voices has wrapped up a two-year project attempting to unearth black history in the community called Because We're Still Here (and Moving).
"I think that history is hidden to most people in Carrboro and Chapel Hill," said Lynden Harris, artistic director of the group, a 2007 Indies Arts Award winner. With the help of more than 100 participants, Hidden Voices has continued with their spirit of social-conscience raising by incorporating the oral history of dozens of residents about life before and after integration with photographs and other media.
The project features a photography exhibit and a community mapping component, which allows visitors to tack on their own knowledge of the area's black history via sticky notes and photos. A walking tour map and an interactive text message tour, allowing passers-by to simply text to learn about a place examined by the group, also accompany the project.
Harris said she was pleased to have brought to the surface a history that often goes unrecognized by area residents, though it has implications for the larger American community.
"It was a thriving, tightly knit community, and they have a history that mirrors our national history, a story of constant struggle and displacement." —Amanda Younger
Hidden Voices' exhibit premieres Friday, Feb. 8, 6-8 p.m in the gallery of The ArtsCenter in Carrboro.