Birds of Chicago @ Whelan’s - Sunday 11th May 2014

'A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush'. An often quoted proverb on the benefits of enjoying what you have rather than wishing for something more. Well, tonight the only birds we need are flying high all over the environs of Whelan’s as they swoop and soar in a performance that was heady, heart-felt and passionate.

The mix of organic, roots music, coupled with soulful vocal harmonies, was as compelling as it was inspiring, across an energetic and joyous 90 minutes of musical celebration. This wonderful band is mainly a collective based around the talents of JT Nero and Allison Russell. Whether touring as a duo or with a full band, Nero and Russell have emerged as two of the most talented new voices in North American Roots music.

Born from the flames of previous bands, Po’ Girl and JT and the Clouds, they have discovered a power in their collective that creates some truly spine tingling moments. Their recent CD, Live From Space, has received rave reviews and brought many new fans on both side of the Atlantic. Mix a little gospel, a little soul, plenty of country attitude and you get some semblance of the forces at play here. Heard live, this couple display a spirit in performance that is really special and conjures up the celebratory feel of a revival meeting.

Fever Dream, Cannonball and Trampoline are played with intensity and a power that sweeps the audience along and the wonderful vocal interplay between Allison and JT Nero perfectly complimented by the fluid guitar playing of Will Waghorn and the subtle drumming of Joe Faulhaber.

 The song Sans Souci highlights the unique talent that is Allison Russell in all her energetic and inspirational self; a one woman performance, if ever there was one, to blow away all sense of the blues.

I cannot recommend this band more highly and please seek out their infectious music.

We are given the added pleasure of the local support act, Hidden Highways, who play a confident and compelling set that highlights their recent debut release, Old Hearts Reborn. They describe themselves as a quiet Americana-inflected folk duo and this is very much what they deliver. Carol Anne McGowan and Tim V. Smyth perform as a confident and sweetly tuned package that promises much for the future.

Once again Roadworks Tours hit the sweet spot with their choice of artists to promote.

Review and photograph by Paul McGee