Saul Williams is a one-man multimedia juggernaut: he’s had successful careers as a screenwriter and actor, but he’s earned his greatest fame as a poet and MC. His new sixth studio album, Encrypted and Vulnerable (Pirates Blend), includes a track whose title aptly sums up his musical evolution: “Experiment.” Though Williams’s first major recording was […]
The Chicago rockabilly scene has been fairly dormant for the past several years, though touring acts such as Big Sandy and Deke Dickerson still attract huge local audiences. Along with Tammi Savoy, singer Bailey Dee is among the vanguard of those making the scene exciting again. Dee’s musical background is fairly diverse, and though she […]
Hardworking Chicago preservationists the Fat Babies play with the vitality and commitment to make antique songs feel brand-new.
Guitarist George Freeman and harmonica player Billy Branch demonstrate the common roots of the sounds they love.
Ever since her self-titled 1987 debut, Rosie Flores has straddled the line between country and rockabilly. She may add or remove the big beat for emphasis, but she always keeps a distinct honky-tonk flavor. But on her recent album, February’s Simple Case of the Blues, the singer-guitarist dives into the blues, and rather than coming […]
Led by charismatic vocalist and harmonica player J.D. Wilkes, the Legendary Shack Shakers present an interesting take on the psychobilly theme. Formed in Kentucky and now based in Nashville, this group has been blending roots, country, rock ’n’ roll, and punk for more than two decades. While many of their contemporaries’ styles seem to start […]
The legendary R&B band can rock hard too, but they’ve never crossed over like Sly Stone or Prince.
Country artist Junior Brown has a droll baritone reminiscent of Johnny Cash that works well in funny songs, including “Highway Patrol” and “My Wife Thinks You’re Dead.” But as great as his voice is, what keeps drawing the fans in is his thundering ax work. His live sets are designed to show off his proficiency […]
Every year since 1981, FitzGerald’s American Music Festival has celebrated the Fourth of July with a great lineup of roots music, and the 38th edition is no exception: it has plenty of highlights on its four days on three stages (the club, the smaller SideBar, and a tent outside). Chicagoan Robbie Fulks rolls in with […]
When Leela James released her first album, A Change Is Gonna Come (Warner Bros.), in summer 2005, she was widely heralded as the newest incarnation of the classic soul diva from times gone by. This would be a lot of hype for anyone to live up to, but James obviously had the chops to do […]
From the mid-80s till the mid-90s, country music went through what Robbie Fulks calls an “integrity explosion.” As if to make up for the middle-of-the-road Urban Cowboy era directly preceding those years, a bunch of traditionalists and iconoclasts suddenly began coming through the door, including Marty Stuart, Steve Earle, and Dwight Yoakam. Even better, these […]
Few artists want to be called “neosoul,” partly due to the perception that the genre is inauthentic or a short-lived trend. Singer Jaguar Wright was so forthright in her distaste for the term that she named her 2005 album Divorcing Neo 2 Marry Soul, which seemed to nod to fans who couldn’t deal with plasticky […]
Many an artist claims to have psychedelic or surf influences, whether you can hear them or not. But in the case of Los Mirlos those flavors are immediately obvious. The septet, formed in Lima, Peru, in 1971, play cumbia amazónica, a tropical subgenre of Peruvian cumbia that reflects the life and customs of the region. […]
The 70s might have been the last time the media treated jazz music as part of the mainstream: Sun Ra appeared on Saturday Night Live, John McLaughlin arguably received as much coverage in rock magazines as David Bowie, and major labels A&M and Arista had entire rosters of jazz artists. In the midst of all […]
Vibraphonist Mulatu Astatke has a seamless way of fusing the music of his native Ethiopia with jazz and Latin music (and you can hear a little bit of R&B in that mix too). On paper this esoteric brew might seem like an acquired taste, but in reality it’s just one worldly step away from Lonnie […]