Ed’s Redeeming Qualities is a folk group gone seriously awry: the band comprises a ukelele player (who looks like a normal alternative-rock type), a violinist cum guitarist (a woman, ditto), a “percussionist” (who mostly plays bongos and looks like he should own an Italian restaurant) and, on record at least, the ukelele player’s late brother, who wrote a couple of songs and played on a lot of the band’s first album, More Bad Times. (There’s no Ed.) Now, some of what Ed’s Redeeming Qualities does is silly, if generally amusing, stuff; there’s a tune called “Cheese Grater,” for instance, which lasts about 30 seconds, and a few of the other songs, like “Bob,” tend to sidle over into the realm of whimsy. But there’s something else here. A lot of it is the acid observations and startling musicality of the violinist cum guitarist, Carrie Bradley, who on “The Boy I Work WIth” and “A Little Thing” is in fairly high-level territory, it seems to me. The former is highly melodic and extremely delicately sung: if I’m reading it right, it’s about how little monsters grow up and are transformed by love–we hope. And “A Little Thing”–funny, sad, cold-blooded–is lovely and kind of scary. And sometimes the band leaves the whimsy home and comes up with an absurdist classic, like the epic “Lawn Dart.” I have a feeling More Bad Times is going to be one of those records I get obsessive about. Live the group is deadpan as hell and dryly engaging–strange, but engaging. Wednesday and Thursday, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620.

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