Meyers, Calif. - As JT Nero and Allison Russell are a natural musical combination, their band, Birds of Chicago, and the intimate venue The Divided Sky are a suitable pairing.
JT Nero has a Chicago rock and soul band, JT and the Clouds, and Allison Russell fronts a Canadian urban folk band, Po' Girl.
"(Our bands are) different but very sympathetic, both similar to the way we approach harmony singing and using a bunch of voices as weapons," Nero said. "That was our first kinship."
Nero spoke to Lake Tahoe Action from San Francisco, where he was on his first break from a three-month tour which circled the country. Birds of Chicago and Sean Hayes shared the stage in support of their respective new albums.
"We had so much fun making the record, we have been itching to get out on the road and now that's where we are," Nero said.
Described by a critic as a "poet of the everyday and the absurd," Nero said his influences are Mark Twain and Sam Cooke. Russell is an accomplished singer and whistler who plays ukulele, guitar and banjo.
"It felt so easy and so right singing with her that we knew we wanted to carve out our own space for that," Nero said.
"(Our music) is lyric driven and its influences are a patchwork or mongrel unit," he said. "Anyone who's not saying they are playing mongrel music is probably lying because nothing is going to be sprung out of thin air at this point. There's a grab bag of influences in there. Anything from old gospel to country to the folk tradition. The key for us is to not think too hard on the hyphens like country-folk-blues and get caught up in that. If we're doing it right, it should sound like a fresh take on all the things that have come down the line."
Birds of Chicago perform with a family of like-minded musicians, sometimes as many as seven on the stage. It will be a trio its Lake Tahoe debut at the Divided Sky on the birthday of Twain and the Action figure who wrote this article.
"It is intimate and we love those kinds of shows," Nero said. "Those are our very favorite. We like to have it both ways. It's great to have that orchestral sound and have that big groove but it's also really nice to have that listening room situation where you can really connect and strip it down."