Fantastical folk duo Birds of Chicago will bring their country funk to Divided Sky May 29.
Birds of Chicago is a collective based around singer/songwriters JT Nero (of the Chicago rock and soul band, JT and the Clouds) and Allison Russell (of the Canadian urban folk band, Po’ Girl).
JT Nero is a strange and distinct songwriter — he lists Mark Twain and Sam Cooke among his biggest influences. He is a poet of the everyday and the absurd, the lonely, the hopeful and the semi-hopeful. He’s got a fractured country soul croon, full of doo-wop ghosts and old-time religion. With the Clouds he’s a rock ‘n’ roll preacher — with Birds of Chicago he digs deeper into darker, often fantastical nuances of his work.
There’s not much Allison Russell can’t sing, which is no surprise to many loyal Po’ Girl fans. She’s got a bit of the speakeasy chanteuse in her, a bit of old R&B, but with a delicacy and clarity of phrasing that Ma Carter or Loretta Lynn would surely approve of. She plays banjo, ukulele, guitar and clarinet. She’s also a top-shelf whistler. She writes gorgeous, unpredictable songs, and makes other people’s tunes — often Nero’s — her own with startling ease.
The JT Nero/Allison Russell combination first struck gold on the JT Nero solo release, Mountains/Forests (No. 2 on the American UK Critic’s List for 2011.) Realizing their chemistry, JT and Allison formed Birds of Chicago as a vehicle for their shared musical vision, and have since toured virtually non-stop. Recent festival appearances include Kerrville, Strawberry, High Sierra, Joshua Tree Roots Festival and more. The eponymous CD “Birds of Chicago” enjoyed more than 10 weeks in the CMJ Top 200, peaking at No. 95.
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