Listening to “We Can’t Make It Here” from the 2005 album “Childish Things” immediately makes you respect James McMurtry: his lyrics are a direct indictment of the hypocrisies of the right and also of big-box discount stores like Walmart who encourage companies to ship jobs overseas in order to reduce costs to their customers.
The son of novelist and screenwriter Larry McMurtry, McMurtry has been part of the folk-rock scene since John Mellencamp produced his debut “Too Long in the Wasteland” back in 1989. He has since collaborated with the likes of John Prine and Dwight Yoakam (in the “supergroup” Buzzin’ Cousins) and has regularly recorded and toured with his backing band, the Heartless Bastards—though the band is no longer billed in that manner because of confusion with the Ohio-based band of the same name. Read the rest of this entry »
Though labels have repeatedly attempted to bring this Italian pop singer and songwriter to mainstream audiences, Zucchero is still pretty much unknown stateside. However, he is considered a major superstar in Europe through his recorded canon and also because of his charitable efforts—for instance, he was the driving force behind the many Pavarotti & Friends shows that over the years brought together talents as diverse as B.B. King, Mariah Carey, Caetano Veloso, Liza Minnelli and Sting, to name a few. Read the rest of this entry »
Though this Aussie band has struggled to find mainstream success in the United States (their second release stateside was rejected by their then-label back in the day), they eventually found the respect they deserved here in the past decade, as they evolved from a new wave sound to more progressive-rock-leaning tendencies.
Recently inducted into Australia’s Aria Hall of Fame, the current lineup (Steve Kilbey, Marty Willson-Piper, Tim Powles and Peter Koppes) will be performing three albums in their entirety, starting off with “Untitled #23″ and then looking back into the nineties with two of their most successful albums in the US, “Priest=Aura” and “Starfish.”
The current tour also marks the re-release of the group’s early albums on the indie label Second Motion Records, which will come fully remastered with bonus tracks and additional sleeve notes and photos for the pleasure of their diehard fans. (Ernest Barteldes)
February 11 at Park West, 322 West Armitage, (773)929-5959, 8pm. $32.
Known for his one-man shows (in which he uses samplers, loops and computer-generated sounds), Keller Williams has taken his music in various directions over his career. In 2010 he released “Thief,” an album with his side project The Keels, that included covers from the likes of Kris Kristofferson, Amy Winehouse and Cracker (among others). In the meantime, he also went into Dan Zanes territory by releasing the aptly titled “Kids,” which contains a collection of original tunes aimed at children under 10. He’s performing in support of the new disc (he will also be doing an adult-themed show later in the evening), with his touring band. Expect a mix of the music from the disc with some of his own tunes re-styled to fit the much younger audience and also the parents who will be escorting them—passing the fan torch to the next generation. (Ernest Barteldes)
February 5 at Park West, 322 West Armitage, (773)929-5959, 3:30pm & 8pm. $15-$23. 18+.
By Tom Lynch
My ten favorite shows from the last ten years. I’m almost certain I’m forgetting a few here and there, but these are the unbelievable nights that came to mind first. In descending order, for those of you who love anticipation!
10. The Postal Service @ Abbey Pub 4/23/03
I’m still one of the only people I know who saw Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello actually perform live. (On this night, with Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis performing the girl vox!) However you feel about DCFC, it’s hard not to be quickly won over by “Give Up.” Cex opened, and that was pretty terrible. Read the rest of this entry »
Alison Sudol, as A Fine Frenzy, creates a penetrating brand of unabashed pop rock that’s difficult to ignore. Her 2007 debut, “One Cell in the Sea,” was the work of a still-learning singer-songwriter pianist, but featured moments stronger than others as Sudol navigated the waters. (In an interview around the record’s release Sudol told me that she “trips. I say silly things, I sometimes get tongue-tied. I get starstruck. I wouldn’t want to get good at being cool,” which immediately made me crush on her.) The new record from A Fine Frenzy, called “Bomb in a Birdcage” (Virgin), shows a more confident songwriter and performer in Sudol, as she weaves her way through melancholy choruses like “You go on and I’ll be happier,” on “Happier,” with incredible soul. It’s not all soft whispering, however, as alt-rock tracks like “Blown Away” and “Electric Twist” move with a smooth grace. If she was just a little less overproduced and had a little more dirt on her sound, Sudol could be amazing, but what are we to expect while she’s still on Virgin. (Tom Lynch)
A Fine Frenzy plays November 4 at Park West, 322 W. Armitage, (773)929-5959, at 7:30pm.
Since 2003, local label Numero Group—founded by self-described music obsessives Tom Lunt, Rob Sevier and Ken Shipley—has been compiling rare, mostly unheard records from eras past and releasing re-mastered recordings, bringing new light to several artists and their material that would’ve otherwise been long forgotten. The genre of music isn’t limited to anything specific, either, as the label has dipped its paws into everything from soul to disco to world music, with literally every venture a unique success. Tonight, Numero Group presents its “Eccentric Soul Revue,” featuring performances by Syl Johnson, Renaldo Domino, The Notations and the long absent The Final Solution. For lovers of soul, this is a must-see event for sure. (Tom Lynch)
April 4 at Park West, 322 W. Armitage, (773)929-5959, 9pm.
You could call fans of The Mountain Goats a “cult” if you want, but I would much prefer the term “family,” as I’m one of the bunch. Mountain Goats completists, who strive to own every song John Darnielle has put to tape—which has to be around, if not more than, a thousand—are admittedly a little loony, but hey, everyone has to have a dream. The last time Darnielle was in town, at Park West in fall of last year, he took time out of his full-band set to play some older songs, something he hasn’t done in years. It was a genuine gesture to older fans, and was a nice move on his part. This tour could see even more of that—for the first time in a decade or so, Darnielle is hitting the stage without a band, so one would expect—or at least hope—he dips into the archives once again. Mountain Goats producer and quirky talent John Vanderslice comes along for the ride. Tour mates once again…(Tom Lynch)
NOTE: This show has been moved from the Epiphany to the Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee. April 1, $16.
Blues, Chicago Artists, Classical, Country, Electronic/Dance, Festivals, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Music 45, Pop, Rock, World Music
It’s the economy, stupid.
Not only has the music industry had to adapt to the growth of digital technology and file-sharing, now everyone’s broke and on the brink of fighting for food. This century has not been kind to record labels, record stores and record manufacturers, not to mention the promoters and venues who’ve seen some declines in business due to—you guessed it—the elevating economic crisis. Top that off with the threat of a Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger and a citywide Promoter’s Ordinance, and the fear is very much real. No matter how good the intentions are of all parties, there may not be enough room for the little guy for much longer.
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Best known for his work as a songwriter and guitarist with Norah Jones (he penned several songs for her first two albums, including the Grammy Award-winning “Don’t Know Why”), New York-born Jesse Harris has had a long career as a singer-songwriter in his own right. In the meantime, he has also worked as a producer and touring sideman for the likes of Sasha Dobson, Jonathan Harris and many others. If that weren’t enough to keep him out of mischief, he also wrote the score for the soundtrack of the Ethan Hawke vehicle “The Hottest State.” Harris is currently on tour promoting his upcoming disc, “Watching The Sky” (Mercer Street), a record that is heavily influenced by Brazilian music—an obsession he has lived with for the last few years. “I’ve been listening to Brazilian music since I was a kid—my dad introduced me to the album that Stan Getz did with Jobim and Joao Gilberto [the iconic "Getz/Gilberto," released in 1965] and the records that Herbie Mann did—my dad was attracted to Brazilian jazz-fusion,” he says over the phone from New York. “Later on I discovered Gilberto Gil from friends when I was pretty young and from then here and there I would listen to things but it was really when I went to Brazil in 2002/2003 that I bought a bunch of records and really got into it, and later I discovered early Jorge Ben and Gilberto Gil records, and Gal Costa and everything like that and it really became an addiction—every chance I got I’d buy Brazilian records.” For his Chicago stop in support of Joshua Radin (he also plays in Radin’s band), he keeps things pretty low-key, performing backed solely by his six-string banjo and a percussionist—a format he developed as he hit the road. “I was going to go solo, but the record company said that it would be better to have a percussionist,” he says. “At first I was doing acoustic guitar and percussion, and would play banjo on a few songs, and every time I played banjo I had a lot of fun, and then every time I picked up the guitar I got bummed out, and eventually I started playing only banjo.” (Ernest Barteldes)
March 3 at Park West, 322 W. Armitage, (773)929-1322, 8pm. $18.