Four years ago, Chicago singer-songwriter Jess Shoman started Tenci as a bedroom project, and in 2019 they debuted with the album My Heart Is an Open Field. The following year, Shoman reissued My Heart through Austin indie Keeled Scales, which has put out music by similarly contemplative artists such as Arizona experimentalist Karima Walker and Big Thief guitarist Buck Meek. As Tenci gained momentum nationally, Shoman fleshed it out into a full band; these days Tenci includes drummer Joseph Farago (who makes bubbly lo-fi pop as Joey Nebulous), bassist Izzy Reidy (who fronts the indie-rock group Izzy True), and guitarist and saxophonist Curt Oren (bassist in Izzy True). This version of Tenci recorded the new A Swollen River, a Well Overflowing, whose hushed, rootsy songs hit you right in the heart—even when Shoman veils their impressionistic lyrics in cryptic details, A Swollen River feels powerfully warmhearted and restorative. Near the end of the knotty “Be,” Shoman contorts their normally soft-spoken voice into a growl just as Oren opens up into a husky, steamy sax solo that dissolves into a serene coda—Tenci can end a song gently even when it feels about to erupt, and that’s a great model for how to deal with tension in our own lives.
Tenci Macie Stewart opens. Sat 11/19, 9 PM, Sleeping Village, 3734 W. Belmont, $15, 21+