If you’re not ordinarily seduced by the sometimes prim aesthetics of the folk music world, you should still know about Andrew Calhoun, one folkie who can really sing about life without mucking it up with pallid nostalgia or cloying harmonies. Calhoun’s roots in the Anglo-Irish folk tradition run as deep as any other folksinger’s, but by insistently keeping his focus on the problems and joys of real people living in today’s world, he goes an awfully long way toward overturning the prevalent image of folksingers as escapists trying to live in a past that never was. It helps a lot that his voice is just raw enough, and his guitar playing just edgy enough, to keep him from being accused of Muzak mongering; and his sarcastic sense of humor (in the testosterone anthem “Balls” he even manages to work in a reference to Lou Reed) doesn’t hurt either. But it’s ultimately Calhoun’s courageous insistence on examining death, melancholy, and alienation that matters the most–and it’s his bright, intelligent song craft that enables him to do so without getting maudlin or depressing. To put it more succinctly, Calhoun’s work has class. Saturday, 8 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 909 W. Armitage; 525-7793 or 708-332-1583. Thursdays, 8:30 PM, Third Coast, 1260 N. Dearborn; 649-0730. Next Saturday, May 8, 8 PM, Mont Clare Congregational Church, 6935 W. Medill; 348-1628 or 889-8174.

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