On September 15, 2003 an adoring and sold-out Carnegie Hall audience gathered to pay tribute to a true legend and revolutionary, Chavela Vargas. The New York Times wrote," The audience did not want to let her go, bringing her back for encore after encore." Everyone in attendance was aware of all the magic and history on that stage and in awe of how an eighty four year old woman making her Carnegie Hall debut wielded fearlessness and heartache to command the venue. Fearlessness is what brought her to the public's attention in Mexico in the late 50s when she dressed in men's clothing, smoked cigars, carried a gun and chased women in a time when this was unimaginable. She openly seduced women with Rancheras, Mexican folk songs of love and loss intended to be sung by men that became a transgressive force in her mouth.
Chavela Vargas's voice isn't technically beautiful, per se. It doesn't soar upon lovely melodies or dance among cooing choruses. Rather, the iconic singer's vocals became an integral part of whatever it is she is singing, a natural extension of the music. Vargas' unique approach to a song makes this collection, recorded in September 2003 at Carnegie Hill in New York City, an otherworldly experience. Her singing--withered by love, loss and a decidedly uncommon life--takes root within the rapturous lyrics of Jose Alfredo Jimenez, Agustin Lara, and Cuco Sanchez, among others. The partnership blossoms and grows, often twisting and turning through anger, tears and moments of sheer joy. Vargas lets out pleading cries and guttural growls that make each song entirely her own. Throughout the concert--and amid the disc's lush artwork--Vargas stands as a captivating goddess. Her moments of humanity, however (apologizing for not speaking English, lavishing gushing praise on a few songs) make the experience all the more captivating. --Joey Guerra