Written by Eddie Ferranti
ImageThe Folk Alliance International has been a productive source of discovering new talent for Rose and myself over the last few years.  Being able to catch acts who rarely get to head south to Texas are a joy to cover and one of those hit the Sugarland House Concerts recently called Birds of Chicago.

The husband -wife duo of JT Nero and Allison Russell met in 2011 while she was in another band we loved, Po’ Girl, when they collaborated on JT’s “Mounntains/Forests” album and they’ve been together ever since.  This cool hippy couple travel non-stop all over the place-up to 10 months a year- playing their toe tapping soulful Americana sound with their soon to be one year old child, Ida Maeve, in tow!  

AR is from Montreal,QC and JT from Chicago.  Following their critically acclaimed self titled debut in 2013 ,  they decided to release a “Live From Space” CD in early 2014 that showcases what they do best, which is a little bit of everything.  Russell can dazzle on banjo, ukulele, guitar and big time on clarinet pairng with Nero’s consistent guitar work. 

The sugar and spice vocal mix is quite enjoyable especially in the intimate setting this night.  The vocals spill out with a mix of crusty country and silky smooth that comes at you in a spiritual and moving pop rock sound that is hard to pigeon hole into a category. The duo has a playful banter and look so at ease with one another as they face off on stage which translates beautifully to the audience. 

Image“Sadness”, Seahorses” and “On the Avenue” came out of the gate demonstrating how all three (there was a backing player on bass/electric guitar whom I failed to get a name) could really play.  A “loosey goosey boogie harmonizing” time was off and running to the delight of the packed house in attendance.  They tossed in a waltz tune “Galaxy Ballroom” and then AR killed it on clarinet on “Love is Real”. 

I cannot stress enough how the trade offs of clarinet and vocals works big time in the Americana sound of BOC.   Their tunes are chocked full of love, hope and strong references to their adopted city of Chicago.  Other highlights from the two 45 minute set gig were “Old Calcutta”,  “Real Midnight”, “Shake Me” done acapella by Russell, “Cannonball” demonstrating stunning harmonies and “Until It’s Gone” where AR shifted into her bag of tricks and turned ‘Aretha Franklin like’ on us!  

BOC evokes a very pleasant 70’s easy rock feel that goes down like a cold beer on a summer evening relaxing on the back porch.  Soul, jazz and folk never sounded so good coming from folks who are so tremendously humble and easy to approach.  

JT told me to look him up the next time we visit Chicago for pointers on the best happenings around town!  You can bet we will and hopefully catch them “somewhere” down the road, too.

As far as the venue, Nancy Brand and Company have it goin’ on.  This was our 4th visit and she has really got the sound system working nicely and the beef and veggie lasagna with salad rocks!   Plus folks bring plenty of high quality desserts of all shapes and sizes.     BYOB and plenty of wine can be had also.     Drop her a line @ nancyjbrand@yahoo.com to get on her mailing list……God Bless your HOLIDAZE!!!