Birds of Chicago

Birds of Chicago, is a collective based around JT Nero and Allison Russell. Whether touring as a duo or with the full family band, Nero and Russell have emerged as two of the most compelling new voices in North American Roots music.

For several years Russell and Nero's respective bands, Po' Girl (Vancouver, BC) and JT and the Clouds (Chicago, IL), have collaborated extensively, but on 2011's Mountains/Forests, released under the JT Nero banner, they tapped into the true, bewitching power of their voices together on an entire record. It also featured the full cast of characters that would round out the Birds of Chicago ensemble -- the Clouds and Michelle McGrath, the luminous singer and picker from the hidden hills of Southeast Ohio.

The record received critical raves and won them new fans on both side of the Atlantic, and created a great deal of excitement for the first official Birds of Chicago album, slated for release in September, 2012.

Nero's fractured country-soul voice wrapped in Russell's silver and gold tones, is a fine thing. Not too perfect, not at all saccharine, you'll hear echoes of mountain gospel, street corner doo-wop, and classic soul. Accompanied by just a banjo and a guitar, it's haunting. Fired by the band, it's a full tilt revival.

Nero and Russell are most at home on the road - pick almost any night in the next two years and you can bet they will be in some festival, theater, pub, VFW hall, roller rink (they wish) or living room, dovetailing their voices, singing their songs of hope, despair, love.... and electric seahorses. And honey bee apocalypses. And ice cream. It's familiar and strange stuff - the everyday and the magical. Come see 'em, they won't be hard to find.

Chicago Farmer

“Get me South, Mama get me North, Get me out of Backenforth,” Chicago Farmer sings on the title track of Backenforth, IL, out January 22, 2013. It’s the centerpiece of his sixth collection of Guthrie-inspired populist songs, as well as autobiographical. The son of a small town farming community, Cody Diekhoff logged plenty of highway and stage time under the name Chicago Farmer before settling in the city in 2003. Profoundly inspired by fellow mid-westerner John Prine, he’s a working-class folk musician to his core. His small town roots, tilled with city streets mentality, are turning heads North and South of I-80.

Backenforth, IL is also about finding your place in life - that sweet spot where we all belong. “I love the energy, music, and creativity of Chicago, but at the same time, the roots and hard work of my small town,” he shares. Growing up in Delavan, IL with a population less than 2,000, Diekhoff’s grandparents were farmers, and their values have always provided the baseline of his songs.

He writes music for the “kind of people that come to my shows. Whether in Chicago or Delavan, everyone has a story, and everyone puts in a long day and works hard the same way,” he says. “My generation may have been labeled as slackers, but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t work hard - many people I know put in 50-60 hours a week and 12 hour days. That’s what keeps me playing. I don’t like anyone to be left out; my music is for everyone in big and very small towns.”

He listened to punk rock and grunge as a kid before discovering a friend’s dad playing Hank Williams, and it was a revelation. Prine and Guthrie quickly followed. The name Chicago Farmer was originally for a band, but the utilitarian life of driving alone from bar to bar, city to city - to make a direct connection to his audience and listener, took a deeper hold.

Songs like “Workin’ On It,” are the kind of sing-a-longs he’s known for; it’s become common to see whole rooms full of strangers erupt and sing to the choruses of his songs on first listen. While “The Twenty Dollar Bill” is more sentimental, reminding everyone of that time their own Grandma surreptitiously passed along a little cash to hang onto.

Cody co-produced the album with Chris Harden in Chicago at the I.V. Labs Studios. While the inspiration has never changed, previous albums have been with Nashville session players - or just himself with guitar and harmonica.

For Backenforth, IL, he brought in friends for a loose and live vibe, accompanied by “The Hired Hands,” Darren Garvey on percussion and Mike Davidov on bass. Cody and The Hired Hands were recorded live and on analog tape to capture the feel and authenticity of each performance. Later, some of Chicago’s finest musicians chimed in on pedal steel, resonator, electric and acoustic guitar, organ, dobro, and vocals.

Chicago Farmer plans to continue touring relentlessly to support the new album.

With Backenforth IL, he solidifies that wherever he is, that’s where he belongs, that’s where the songs will be written and sung, and that’s where the music will be played.

Simpleton & Cityfolk

Simpleton & Cityfolk appeal both to the heart and the tapping toes of the listener with a blend of roots rock, Americana and folk. The band's roots go back to Iowa when Geoff Glenn (guitar, vocals) and Chris Bennett (guitar, vocals) met as roommates at the University of Iowa. In 2010, college over, Bennett returned home to Chicago. Glenn soon followed intent on pursuing music with his friend. Bennett's high school buddies, Chris “Foo” Williams (upright bass, vocals) and John Conlon, (guitar) filled out the rest of the Cityfolk with Mike “Sku” Skowronski joining on drums after Conlon’s move to Utah.

In 2011, a Sunday afternoon residency at the Green Owl in the Wisconsin Dells allowed the band to hone their skills and learn to gel as a band. The weekly gig gave them the requisite chops and confidence to return to Chicago to perform their original material in front of receptive crowds. Compared to Mumford and Sons and Wilco, soon the band was headlining Metro, Double Door and House of Blues.

In 2012, the group recorded their debut 6-song EP, The Williams Account with Patrick De La Garza in his Chicago studio. The EP reveals the dichotomy of the country and the city with the aching “Porch Light” and the slow sway of “City Lights”. The follow-up full-length, No Man is an Island, recorded/produced with Mike Hagler (Wilco, Neko Case, The New Pornographers) at Kingsize Sound Labs. Scheduled for a July 2013 release, Simpleton & Cityfolk will have a busy summer promoting the new record, celebrating the record's release with a show at Lincoln Hall in Chicago and appearing at a number of other summer festivals including the Cedar Rapids Freedom Festival in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

$12.00 - $15.00

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Birds of Chicago with Chicago Farmer, Simpleton & Cityfolk

Friday, November 22 · Doors 8:00 PM / Show 8:30 PM at Double Door