Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: The Stanton Moore Trio/Evanston Space

Jazz No Comments »


Jazz and funk have counted more than a few industrious percussionists: Bernard ‘Pretty’ Purdie, Elvin Jones and Ziggy Modeliste to name just a few. Stanton Moore might not come to bear so heavily in a stylistic manner, but the NOLA native has done his fair share in expounding the virtues of his hometown and its percussive history. While not engaged as Galactic’s drummer, Moore has spent the last few decades giving workshops, recording instructional DVDs and, perhaps most importantly, trying to take NOLA and its musicians back to a pre-Katrina standing. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Vieux Farka Toure/Evanston Space

Blues, Genre, Rock, World Music No Comments »


When Vieux Farka Toure first played in the United States, he followed the usual West African formula, using a supporting guitarist, percussionists and other instruments. It gave Toure the freedom to exercise his vocal chops in addition to the guitar technique of fast notes that make up the jam-friendly groove of Malian blues. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Jeff Parker/Evanston Space

Chicago Artists, Jazz, World Music No Comments »

Photo: Michael Jackson


Chicago guitarist Jeff Parker spent the first decade of his career, after he finished school at Berklee, gigging and recording with the city’s jazzbo-elite and performing with a little group called Tortoise. Coming aboard for the ensemble’s 1998 “TNT” means Parker wasn’t a part of the ensemble’s high-water mark, the krauty “DJed,” but added in a subtle six-string voice, enabling the group to push simplistic rock stuffs somewhere unique. In every setting he plays, though, Parker’s sturdy bop-informed experiments are easily recognized. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Dr. John/Evanston Space

Blues, Jazz, R&B, Rock No Comments »


It’s infrequent when fifty-year-old careers claim the last few months as the most fruitful. During March, Dr. John was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And the NOLA native’s 2010 album, “Tribal,” was in contention for a Grammy as “Best Contemporary Blues Album.” It’s the pianist’s earliest recordings, however, that continually pull in younger music scavengers. Sure, “Tribal” sought to more fully incorporate that bad ju-ju the singer prodded decades back with tracks like “Manoovas” sounding as if the band were possessed by some devilish spirits. But “Gris Gris,” recorded back in 1968, remains Dr. John’s towering achievement. For an album so beholden to NOLA’s musical and spiritual heritage, it’s odd to find that the disc was recorded in Los Angeles, where Dr. John had relocated and begun work as a part of the Wrecking Crew, taking on studio gigs backing up everyone from Sonny and Cher to Canned Heat. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: J.D. Souther/Evanston Space

Country, Country folk, Folk No Comments »

From 1972’s “The Fast One” through J.D. Souther’s re-recording of “Silver Blue” for this year’s low-key “A Natural History,” the singer/songwriter’s vision of country, rock and folk’s intersection hasn’t been daring. But it has been sturdy and enduring, which accounts for a handful of artists from other genres adapting his compositions. Starting out as a jazzbo, toting around a sax as much as drumsticks, Souther found himself in the middle of SoCal’s embrace of countrified sounds during the late sixties and into the early seventies. Never as raucous as the Flying Burrito Brothers or as psychedelic as the Byrds, Souther’s talents afforded him interaction with all those folks while sharing an apartment with soon-to-be Eagles’ frontman Glenn Frey. Souther, in fact, would be responsible for some of that band’s biggest hits. Read the rest of this entry »

The Wiyos of Oz: Unpacking the eclectic influences on a folk-bluegrass-rock band

Bluegrass, Folk, Rock No Comments »

Photo: Fionn Reilly

By Shaunacy Ferro

What do beatboxing, the Wizard of Oz and miming have in common? They’re all a part of an upcoming release from the Wiyos, an upstate New York band that is part bluegrass, part rock, part Americana, and entirely difficult to pin down. Currently comprised of Michael Farkas, Teddy Weber and Seth Travins, the band took its name from a late-nineteenth-century New York City street gang—but they sound anything but tough.

They describe themselves as “just a hardworking bunch of guys,” and it seems to have paid off. With four studio albums under their belt after eight years, they’ve been featured on “Folk America—Hollerers, Stompers and Old-Time Ramblers,” a BBC television documentary, and have opened for Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp.

At its core, the band is a trio, but they are looking to expand into a quintet in the future and will probably be on tour as a five-piece band. They’re in what they describe as a transitional period—Farkas is now the only remaining member of the original band, and they have begun to move away from the old-time jug-band blues sound of New Orleans and Appalachian music that has been their mainstay and into a style all their own. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Raul Malo/Evanston Space

Country, World Music No Comments »

Photo: George Gutierrez


Raul Malo got his start as a country singer, but you wouldn’t know it by the jazzy and Latin-spiced music he makes these days. The velvet-voiced Malo used to front the Mavericks, but his solo records are more in tune with his Cuban roots. His crossover comes effortlessly. At last year’s CMT Music Awards, Malo performed a medley that included covers of country standards “For the Good Times” and “Crying”—which was originally recorded by Roy Orbison, whose name often comes up when folks are looking for a tidy vocal comparison. But he’s also adept at taking on Cuban legend Beny Moré’s “Volver, Volver.” You can expect a little of both styles in concert, where Malo packs mucho stage charisma, a keen sense of humor and a super-tight backing band. He’s not too shabby a guitar player either. (Ernest Barteldes)

May 19 at Evanston Space, 1245 Chicago, Evanston, (847)492-8860, 8pm. $27-$40.

Preview: James McMurtry/Montrose Room, Old Town School of Folk Music and Evanston Space

Country folk, Folk, Folk-rock, Singer-Songwriter No Comments »


This Austin-based singer-songwriter does not use metaphors or mince any words with his politically charged lyrics. Songs like “Cheney’s Toy” and “We Can’t Make It Here” point a middle finger directly at the maladies of outsourcing, government corruption and its irreversible consequences with no holds barred.

McMurtry (the son of novelist Larry McMurtry) got his first break in 1989 when a demo made its way to the hands of John Mellencamp, who produced his debut disc. He has been a fixture of sorts in the folk music scene performing regularly in Austin with his band, formerly known as The Heartless Bastards.

He is currently on tour promoting his latest CD/DVD combo “Live in Europe,” a document of his first European tour, where he was backed by longtime band members Ronnie Johnson, Daren Hess and Tim Holt. Also appearing on the disc are keyboardist Ian McLagan and Texas songwriter Jon Dee Graham.

For his Chicago appearances, he will do a solo appearance accompanied solely by his own guitar—something he rarely does these days. (Ernest Barteldes)

January 14, The Montrose Room at the InterContinental Hotel, 5300 North River Road, Rosemont, (847)544-5300, 8:30pm, $24; January 15, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 North Lincoln, (773)728-6000, 7 and 10pm, $18-$22; January 16, Evanston Space, 1245 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, (847)492-8860, 8pm, $20-32.

Preview: Dar Williams/Evanston Space

Folk-rock No Comments »


In a seventeen-year career as a performer on the folk circuit, Dar Williams has come to epitomize the idealized version of the coffeehouse singer-songwriter: thoughtful, intimate, a weaver of stories that deliver with such quiet emotion you might find yourself crying without even knowing why. She’s just released her version of a greatest-hits album, the double-length “Many Great Companions,” which not only offers up twenty of her best-loved songs, but also features twelve new acoustic recordings, many in collaboration with the likes of Mary Chapin Carpenter and Gary Louris of the Jayhawks, who also produced the album. We may live in a time where you can’t flip a coin without hitting a singer-songwriter, but it’s a rare and precious coin indeed if it turns up the likes of Williams. Her cover of The Kinks’ “Better Days” not only soars with its melancholy optimism, but it invokes a new appreciation for the songwriting of the Davies brothers. And her own compositions, like “Spring Street” and “The Babysitter’s Here,” connect with a beautiful sense of the everyday stories that compel our lives forward. I’m new to the Dar Williams songbook, but I’ve become mesmerized by its mix of intelligence, musicality and vulnerability. (Brian Hieggelke)

October 26 at Evanston Space, 1245 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, (847)492-8860. 8pm. $30.

Preview: California Guitar Trio/Evanston Space

Classical, Folk, Jazz, Pop, Rock No Comments »


Created in 1991 after taking part of Robert Fripp’s League of Crafty Guitarists, the trio formed by Paul Richards, Bert Lams and Hideyo Moriya forms a rare musical partnership that reaches across various genres without any form of prejudice—during their live sets, they go through tunes as diverse as Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” (including the opera section), Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells,” Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony” and the theme from “The Simpsons” without (literally) missing a beat. The secret behind their success seems to be the fact that they are able to surprise audiences wherever they go—one night, they might play a straight classical set, while during another gig they might do an effect-laden take on Pink Floyd’s “Echoes.” Unlike most other groups, they do allow fans to tape their sets (as long as not for commercial use), so you don’t have to worry about having your portable camera confiscated at the door. This might explain the large availability of live clips that I found on YouTube. (Ernest Barteldes)

March 15 at Evanston Space, 1245 Chicago, Evanston, (847)492-8860, 8pm. $15-$20.

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