I remember hearing Souled American for the first time less than two years ago and thinking then that aside from some nice grooves here and there, the band was pretty lackluster. Since then, though, they’ve gradually metamorphosed into an absolutely first-rate club act. I still can’t understand much of what Chris Grigoroff is singing, but I don’t care, because his funky nasal whine serves so well as a central focus for the band’s hell-at-the-bottom-of-a-beer-bottle swirling darkness of sound (anchored by Joe Aducci and Jamey Barnard, one of the toughest rhythm sections in Chicago). Perhaps given new confidence by having recently signed with Rough Trade, Souled American are still evolving, growing ever more subtle in the way they can writhe, roar, whisper, swing, and ultimately squeeze real drama out of what would otherwise seem just a series of catchy little riffs. At a time when other country-influenced rock bands seeking to mine the “American roots” vein have come to sound like callow adolescents, Souled American sound like real men. Tonight (acoustic performance), Heartland Cafe, 7000 N. Glenwood; 465-8005. Monday, 9 PM, Phyllis’ Musical Inn, 1800 W. Division; 486-9862. Next Friday, July 8, Chicago 21, 6020 W. Belmont; 777-5208.

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