Thomas Comerford Credit: Henry Comerford

Chicago has its share of bands playing country or alternative country, but Thomas Comerford’s lonesome sound is in a category of its own. Comerford straddles the singer-songwriter era of the 1970s and the dusty, deadpan observations of psychedelic iconoclasts such as Bill Callahan. He’s also an independent filmmaker—he teaches film and art history at the School of the Art Institute—and his lyrics accomplish dazzling feats by combining abstract and literal imagery. “The way the light plays on the glass block / A winking joint on a toilet seat” (from “Onion City”) is as good a portrait of despair as any still image. To make Introverts, his new fourth album, Comerford has cast a large ensemble of musicians and singers, including members of Smog, Glass Mountain, Urge Overkill, and Bright Eyes, which makes the big country-soul moments in “Cowboy Mouth” and “Three Sisters” major highlights. Another focal point is “Partners,” a duet with Azita Youssefi, which follows two misfits making plans that you get a sense may never come together. Yet amid all the album’s expansive sounds, including the pretty lilt of Tom McGettrick’s pedal steel guitar, the natural tremor in Comerford’s voice makes him sound more apprehensive than confident. These beguiling country songs leave their doors open for you to poke around and find hidden interpretations that are inevitably right. Comerford has a gig booked at Berwyn venue the Outta Space on June 12 and a record-release show at the Montrose Saloon on June 18; at this point in the pandemic, fans don’t have to wait till an undetermined future date to hear a new album performed live.   v