Birds of Chicago is a collective built around JT Nero ( of JT and The Clouds, Chicago, USA) and Allison Russell ( of Po’Girl, Montreal, Canada) — they are constant vagabonds touring almost 11 months last year in support of their debut, self-titled album. Their brand of rock and roll poetry can be a little hard to categorize, for people that insist on categorizing… their voices are undoubtedly the centerpiece, while the band pressure cooks country, soul, blues in a way that forces some people to reach for extra hyphens in their description… they used to use the phrase “rock n roll” to describe this American mash up — Birds of Chicago still do.
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.
Black Lillies front man Cruz Contreras knows a thing or two about the road.
After co-founding Robinella and the CCstringband with his wife, he spent nearly a decade traveling the road and making music from coast to coast. When his marriage – and the band – dissolved in 2007, he returned to the road … this time, as the driver of a truck for a stone company. It was here, over a year spent rolling down the highways of East Tennessee, that the songs and sounds that would form the nexus of The Black Lillies were conceived.
And “Runaway Freeway Blues,” the band’s third studio album, was realized exactly there … on the road. When the Lillies weren’t playing their 200-odd gigs during 2012, they were in Wild Chorus Studio in their hometown of Knoxville, Tenn., working with Scott Minor of Sparklehorse to craft a beautiful ode to restless spirits and rambling hearts. Rooted in the mud-rutted switchbacks of Appalachia, “Runaway Freeway Blues” is the sound of a band that’s becoming something of a phenomenon across the country.