Birds of Chicago, a collective based around the collaboration between JT Nero (JT and the Clouds) and Allison Russell (Po’ Girl), released their self-titled debut album on January 28.
Birds of Chicago built a buzz for this album with a summer’s worth of memorable turns at festivals across the US and Canada, including High Sierra, Strawberry Music Festival, Kerrville, Delfest, Hillside (Ontario), American River Music Festival, Thirsty Ear, Joshua Tree, Pickamania, Taste of Chicago and more. They capped their summer with a performance on the influential live radio program, eTown, where they were dubbed the “dynamic duo” by hosts, Nick and Helen Forster.
The Birds band actually formed on Nero’s last solo record, Mountains/Forests. That album, a critic’s favourite in 2011, featured Nero and Russell singing together for an entire album for the first time, and minted what would become the Birds of Chicago sound.
Russell’s clarion voice wraps up Nero’s broken-soul country croon in silver and gold tones, underpinned by the elastic, simmering grooves of the family band (all JT and the Clouds veterans). The sound feels familiar, but resistant to pigeonholing – somehow joyful and haunted at the same time.
The album’s first two singles, ‘Trampoline’ and ‘Cannonball’, highlight the band’s effortless gumboing of rock ‘n’ roll, soul and old country, while Nero’s lyrics place him in line with American impressionists like Paul Simon and Robert Hunter.
Birds of Chicago shows feature an unlikely quilting of folks – jam band kids rub shoulders with riot girls and more seasoned NPRish types. A new video for another cut from the album, ‘Moonglow Tapeworm’, captures their pied piper effect at a Chicago speakeasy… nobody’s a stranger, it seems, to the Birds of Chicago cocktail of hope, mystery, melancholy and groove.
Artist’s website: www.birdsofchicago.com