July 12, 2012
even given the buzz over Hogan's recent "I Like to Keep Myself in Pain" album, the year's biggest local roots surprise comes courtesy of JT Nero (nee Jeremy Lindsay) and Allison Russell. Teaming as Birds of Chicago, they project organic gospel, hillbilly, folk and soul elements that bridge traditional and modern approaches. Anchored by Nero's tender, heart-on-a-sleeve timbre and Russell's dreamy chirping, their upcoming self-titled record -- scheduled for October release -- lacks the unevenness and uncertainty that often accompany debuts, for good reason.
Neither singer is a newcomer. A Chicago native reared in Ohio, Nero has sung and played guitar in JT and the Clouds for nearly nine years. Russell, a Montrealer versed in several instruments, fronted Po' Girl for the same period. Their collaborations date back an equally long amount of time. But Birds of Chicago marks the first instance where both vocalists dropped their main band, formed their own and didn't simply guest on a song. Russell credits her contributions to Nero's 2010 "solo" album for sparking the idea.
"By the time JT did 'mountains/forests' last year, I ended up singing on all of the songs," she said via cellphone in California, waiting for Nero to pick her up in a rental car and drive to the High Sierra Music Festival. "We realized we had a new undertaking on our hands and threw something together. JT and the Clouds is still a band, and Po' Girl is still a band. But we're focusing on Birds for the next couple of years. Some of the Clouds will play with us. We're a family circus band."
Read the full Birds of Chicago interview
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