Havadine Stone and Ben Baker Billington of the duo Blue Lick
Havadine Stone and Ben Baker Billington of the duo Blue Lick Credit: Ricardo Adame

Multi-instrumentalists Havadine Stone and Ben Baker Billington have played a handful of compelling local shows as the duo Blue Lick since 2017, but they haven’t released any recordings yet—probably because they both keep themselves busy. Stone has dropped solo cassettes on Reserve Matinee and American Dreams Records over the past few years, and Billington (who also has a solo venture called Quicksails) is easily among the city’s most prodigious musical collaborators. In 2020, Stone sent Billington a 30-minute monologue about love, lust, and the geographic and emotional flatness of the midwest that she’d recorded alone in her closet, and he paired it with modular synth pieces whose floating ambient tones occasionally blossom into bits of dance music or jazz. On Friday, September 17, American Dreams will release the resulting work on Blue Lick’s debut LP, Hold On, Hold Fast, and this wolf thinks its thoughtfully oblique and winningly deadpan jams make it one of the best releases so far this year.

Havadine Stone recorded the monologue that stretches the length of Hold On, Hold Fast in one unbroken take.

Guitarist Michael Damani came to Gossip Wolf’s attention playing onstage with the Original Chicago Blues All Stars and in Wyatt Waddell’s exceptional band. On his standout 2020 track “White City, Black World,” though, he showed himself more than a sideman—he’s a songwriter with a righteous gift for melody and a keen eye for injustice. Damani says his soulful new single, “Better Off,” which recently hit streaming services, is about the end of a love affair and being “better off for having known this person, but also better off now that the relationship has ended.” Who can’t relate to that?

Michael Damani plays guitar in Wyatt Waddell’s band, and Waddell plays bass on Damani’s new single.

Got a hankering for avant-garde stoner metal with a horn section? Local six-piece Shed, led by cellist Calvin Armstrong, includes Steve Wasilczuk on tenor and baritone saxes, Drew Baxter on bass trombone, and Chris Misch-Bloxdorf (aka beat maker Artie Do Good) on tenor trombone. They just self-released their wild self-titled debut!

The only nods Shed make to conventional metal instrumentation are drums and electric bass—their front line is horns and cello.

Got a tip? Tweet @Gossip_Wolf or email gossipwolf@chicagoreader.com.