On the cover of last year’s terrific Sad Girl (Diesel Only) Amy Allison sits at a bar, slumped forlornly over a drink. And inside, with a backing band called the Maudlins stirring up an elegant, detailed mix of pedal-steel-soaked country and blue-eyed soul, she laments her poor luck in love and her self-destructive habits with such vehemence that when she declares, “And it’s not just an act, it’s a matter of fact,” you believe it. But she’s not just crying in her beer: as on her fine 1996 debut, The Maudlin Years (Koch), the daughter of great jazz-blues singer and pianist Mose Allison tweaks her romantic misfortunes with appealing self-awareness–if she reproaches one who’s let her down, she also acknowledges her own blindness in the matter. Though Allison’s melodies are flat-out gorgeous, her voice–characterized by a high-pitched nasal vibrato that’s earned her comparisons to everyone from Iris DeMent to Fran Drescher–is an acquired taste. But she wields it masterfully, imbuing her words with layers of nuance. When she sings, “You’ve got my heart on a Tilt-A-Whirl,” it truly seems as if that heart is about to burst. Allison rarely comes to town–she last played here in 1996 with Parlor James, her short-lived rock band with former Lone Justice guitarist Ryan Hedgecock. Here she performs solo, opening for Christy McWilson. Saturday, August 17, 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/David Plakke.