Americana, folk band create secular gospel

Birds of Chicago - J.T. Nero and Allison Russell

There is a beautiful uniqueness to the sound of Birds of Chicago, an Americana, folk band who refer to their music as “secular gospel.” The duo-fronted band, is the brainchild of husband and wife, J.T. Nero and Allison Russell. Russell grew up in Montreal and has lived with Nero in Chicago since 2009. In 2014, Russell gave birth to their first daughter and hit the road with her four weeks later. Love in Wartime is their third studio album and was produced by Luther Dickinson, of Mississippi, and Nero himself. On this album they are joined by Chris Merrill, bass; Nick Chambers, drums and vocals; Joel Schwartz, lead electric guitar; Drew Lindsay, piano and keys; Dan Abu Absi, rhythm electric, acoustic guitar; Javier Saume-Mazzei, percussion and Kelly Hogan and Nora O’Connor, harmony vocals. Nero plays acoustic guitar and Russell clarinet and banjo — both sing lead. Prior to officially forming in March 2012, Nero and Russell were in other musical projects. Russell began collaborating with Nero on his solo project, mountains/forests in 2011, while she continued with Po' Girl. Nero was also in another band called JT and the Clouds. The two developed a working relationship as Po' Girl and JT and the Clouds traded shows across the Canadian/US border. “This was made with a lot of love, for you,” Allison said. “Wishing you all much peace, love, and happiness.” The music is spacious, lifting and joyful. The lyrics are crafty and cool. My personal favorites are “Roll Away,” “Try,” and the title cut “Love in Wartime.” The Birds of Chicago are tourning the United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada right now. The closest place to catch them is in Fayetteville, Arkansas at the Fayetteville Roots Festival Aug. 24-25. They will be appearing with Joe Purdy on Friday.

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