In 1997, Wilco’s double album Being There became a fundamental pivot for the Chicago band in a decade filled with triumphs. Twenty-five years later, those songs live on in the band’s live shows, even though in the studio Wilco have traveled to a very different place. The evidence lies on Cruel Country, the band’s second […]
When the masked country crooner who performs as Orville Peck dropped his 2019 debut record, Pony (Sub Pop), his decadent baritone and mysterious persona immediately earned him a cult following. Created in the safety of anonymity, his descriptions of heartbreak and loneliness washed over listeners, their intimacy heightened by sparse musical accompaniment. But as quickly […]
In the early days of the COVID pandemic, retail clerks, day-care staff, public-transportation employees, and many other workers learned what coal miners have known for a very long time: that the authorities who deem their labor essential don’t necessarily feel the same way about their lives. Freakwater and the Mekons have each sung folk ballads […]
In the early months of the pandemic, Wandering Boys banjo player Rob Jensen reached out to Matt Clark (of slowcore trio Pinebender and drone duo White/Light) with an invitation to jam. The music they made together planted the seeds for Clark’s new solo endeavor, Otherpeace, a loose group where he’s backed by Jensen (drums), Pinebender […]
Sarah Shook & the Disarmers are known for their roots-driven sound, but on their new third full-length, Nightroamer, Shook’s country aesthetics battle for space alongside some pretty healthy indie inclinations. The production is a bit denser on this recording compared to its predecessor, 2018’s Years—keyboards occasionally factor into the arrangements—and Shook herself gives off less […]
Update as of 12/31/21: Both of Lydia Loveless’s concerts at FitzGerald’s have been postponed in deference to the COVID-19 surge. New dates have not yet been announced. In August, Lydia Loveless released two songs digitally that deserve a proper vinyl seven-inch treatment. For the B side, I’d pick “You’re Leaving Me,” a moody country torch song […]
Chicago country five-piece Tobacco City formed to cover Neil Young songs for a Halloween show, but thankfully they’ve since developed their own sound. Like Young, they have a way with plaintive melodies, but their music is rooted in bluesy honky-tonk and earthy, wistful country, with supple, pop-driven harmony vocals. Tobacco City’s surefire rhythm section—drummer Josh […]
UPDATE: as of Wednesday, July 28 at 9 AM, both Wynonna Judd & Cactus Moser concerts have been canceled. Ticketholders should contact their point of purchase for refund or exchange information. Wynonna Judd’s voice is like chugging diet pop. Her raw, forceful alto sometimes burns a little going down, but the addictive sweetness keeps you […]
This week’s featured gig poster was created by Chicago artist Jason Castillo for a concert headlined by Wild Earp & the Free for Alls.
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 […]
The Nashville-born, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Sunny War is known for her clawhammer fingerstyle guitar playing, vivid autobiographical lyrics, and distinctive sound that starts at the crossroads of blues, country, folk, and punk, and only expands from there. She left home as a teenager to busk on Venice Beach and in San Francisco with friends she […]
Valerie June’s best-known album, 2013’s Dan Auerbach-produced Pushin’ Against a Stone (Sunday Best), is a raw, playful mix of blues and country. Eclectic and ambitious as that effort is, though, it doesn’t capture June’s full range. On the cover of her new fifth album, The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers (Fantasy), June wears a […]
When I heard that the lone surviving Bee Gee, Barry Gibb, was releasing a country album, I didn’t bat an eye. Though the band are best known for the falsetto-laden hits of their disco years, and secondarily for the baroque psychedelia they played in the 1960s (which music snobs like me love), Gibb’s musical life […]
Internal strife, unpaid royalties, and the looming possibility of a sale have forced venerable Chicago indie Bloodshot Records to a crossroads.
In 2016, Chicago alt-country singer-songwriter Isabel Olive began performing and recording as Half Gringa, a name that refers to her Venezuelan ancestry. As she told music writer Britt Julious in the Trib that year, she wants to use Half Gringa to explore complicated questions about ethnicity and identity. Olive knows she’s unlikely to find easy […]