Birds Of Chicago
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Birds Of Chicago

Chicago, Illinois, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | INDIE

Chicago, Illinois, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Folk Soul

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Well that’s a relief…
Let’s face it, there is flotsam and jetsam washed up on the shore of the modern music scene. Stuff that you pick over and possibly find a turd, or a natural pearl. Sometimes it’s the difference between a lump of coal and a diamond. Occasionally its coming across a grain of iron pyrates when, for all the world, a large nugget of gold is in your hands. Such is this record.
Hands up, Americana-Uk has form on this account. We came across JT and the Clouds some time ago, particularly “Caledonia” which was a fine, fine record. Then we happened upon JT Nero’s “Mountains/Forests” which was a nugget so fine it got a 10/10 score. And now this – a proper bona fide collaboration between JT and Alison Russell (of Po’ Girl fame) under their ‘own’ banner of Birds of Chicago.

The relief comes because, due to the vagaries of the publishing system, we’ve actually had this record in our hands since last year when it was released in North America. Fortunately it has now been released in Europe and we can finally begin to spread the word and share the love. And love it we do. In essence it’s a fairly simple affair – take some melodies, arrange them in interesting ways (soul, folk, country, doo wop, samba, gospel…each of the twelve tracks offers something different and intriguing) and the crowning glory – put two of the best voices in popular music over the top. It really is the sweetest combination you’re going to hear this year. Of course sweet works best when combined with bitter and here, as before, this is supplied by the ‘stream of consciousness’ lyrics that make every tune a delight to listen to. Its not over the top to describe it as poetry; we have spent many an hour poring over the lyric book, delighting in the hinted meanings and looking for answers to clues in the wordplay. Try this as an example (from “Old Calcutta”) : “…I know every action is followed by a reaction/or at least the contemplation of a sequencing of movements/and the consequence of a recklessness of purpose/and I know sometimes you feel like you are dying like a porpoise…” He rhymed ‘purpose’ with ‘porpoise’ there… all within a song about rock and roll being dead and Pluto not being considered a planet anymore…Genius.

They are a hard working band, The Birds, pretty much constantly on the road and in fact coming to the UK very shortly. Now that is a very interesting prospect.
10
- Americana UK


Well that’s a relief…
Let’s face it, there is flotsam and jetsam washed up on the shore of the modern music scene. Stuff that you pick over and possibly find a turd, or a natural pearl. Sometimes it’s the difference between a lump of coal and a diamond. Occasionally its coming across a grain of iron pyrates when, for all the world, a large nugget of gold is in your hands. Such is this record.
Hands up, Americana-Uk has form on this account. We came across JT and the Clouds some time ago, particularly “Caledonia” which was a fine, fine record. Then we happened upon JT Nero’s “Mountains/Forests” which was a nugget so fine it got a 10/10 score. And now this – a proper bona fide collaboration between JT and Alison Russell (of Po’ Girl fame) under their ‘own’ banner of Birds of Chicago.

The relief comes because, due to the vagaries of the publishing system, we’ve actually had this record in our hands since last year when it was released in North America. Fortunately it has now been released in Europe and we can finally begin to spread the word and share the love. And love it we do. In essence it’s a fairly simple affair – take some melodies, arrange them in interesting ways (soul, folk, country, doo wop, samba, gospel…each of the twelve tracks offers something different and intriguing) and the crowning glory – put two of the best voices in popular music over the top. It really is the sweetest combination you’re going to hear this year. Of course sweet works best when combined with bitter and here, as before, this is supplied by the ‘stream of consciousness’ lyrics that make every tune a delight to listen to. Its not over the top to describe it as poetry; we have spent many an hour poring over the lyric book, delighting in the hinted meanings and looking for answers to clues in the wordplay. Try this as an example (from “Old Calcutta”) : “…I know every action is followed by a reaction/or at least the contemplation of a sequencing of movements/and the consequence of a recklessness of purpose/and I know sometimes you feel like you are dying like a porpoise…” He rhymed ‘purpose’ with ‘porpoise’ there… all within a song about rock and roll being dead and Pluto not being considered a planet anymore…Genius.

They are a hard working band, The Birds, pretty much constantly on the road and in fact coming to the UK very shortly. Now that is a very interesting prospect.
10
- Americana UK


"gorgeous acoustic ache provided so sweetly by Birds of Chicago..." - The Mad Mackerel


"Trampoline kicks off the album in fine style with both singers swapping verses as the band kick up a funky dust and the vocals coalesce in the chorus. Russell’s Before She Goes is an eulogy for a departed one and introduces the Humboldt crows, perhaps the eponymous birds of Chicago who watch and wait. The crows reappear on the song Humboldt Crows which again appears to be an eulogy this time for Chicago itself. Nero does wax poetically in his writing with the best example, lyrically and performance wise to be heard in the amazing Moonglow Tapeworm that is part savvy street poetry, part surrealism. However the best is saved to last with the closing The Wide Sea where both singers unite with Nero’s cracked delivery perfectly balanced by Russell’s purity as the band surges with the unstoppable strength of a tide coming in." - No Depression


"Trampoline kicks off the album in fine style with both singers swapping verses as the band kick up a funky dust and the vocals coalesce in the chorus. Russell’s Before She Goes is an eulogy for a departed one and introduces the Humboldt crows, perhaps the eponymous birds of Chicago who watch and wait. The crows reappear on the song Humboldt Crows which again appears to be an eulogy this time for Chicago itself. Nero does wax poetically in his writing with the best example, lyrically and performance wise to be heard in the amazing Moonglow Tapeworm that is part savvy street poetry, part surrealism. However the best is saved to last with the closing The Wide Sea where both singers unite with Nero’s cracked delivery perfectly balanced by Russell’s purity as the band surges with the unstoppable strength of a tide coming in." - No Depression


"The debut album features 12 beguiling songs, 10 penned by Nero and two by Russell. Though definitely in the rootsy folk category, it’s got a pop sensibility that should appeal to music fans way outside any limiting or genre defining boundaries...City after city they’re picking up new fans along the way. By the time they get to Ireland in April it’s a certainty that the Birds’ star will have risen considerably. " - The Irish Examiner


" it’s apparent a lot of thought, development and love has being given to this album and the hard-work in creating it has produced an album that rewards the listener, it sounds both effortless and whimsical as it meanders its way sweetly through the twelve original compositions – highly recommended." - Beat Surrender


" it’s apparent a lot of thought, development and love has being given to this album and the hard-work in creating it has produced an album that rewards the listener, it sounds both effortless and whimsical as it meanders its way sweetly through the twelve original compositions – highly recommended." - Beat Surrender


"4/5 stars- This Kickstarter-funded album shows what good taste crowd-funders have. Birds of Chicago is a collective based around JT Nero (aka Jeremy Lindsay) and Allison Russell. Nero leads the Clouds, a rising roots band, while Russell is one of the voices in the much-loved Canadian band Po’Girl. Separately they have their own strengths; together here they occasionally create something striking. The bulk of the 12 country/folk/soul tracks are written by Lindsay, and he displays a spry imagination combined with a sense of a rural idyll. But it is Russell’s warm, clear, soulful voice, frequently joined by Lindsay’s looser but equally affecting pipes, that make songs such as the heady opener Trampoline, the gorgeous drama of Come Morning or the chunky intimacy of Moonglow Tapeworm such a pleasure. Postscript: Birds of Chicago tour here in April. " - The Irish Times


"The sound feels familiar, but resistant to pigeonholing – somehow joyful and haunted at the same time...The album’s first two singles, ‘Trampoline’ and ‘Cannonball’, highlight the band’s effortless gumboing of rock ‘n’ roll, soul and old country, while Nero’s lyrics place him in line with American impressionists like Paul Simon and Robert Hunter." - Folking


"Compact discs in jewel cases might soon be obsolete, but some of the latest gatefold albums add up to real works of art. Take, for instance, Birds Of Chicago, the first joint release by Allison Russell, of the Po' Girl band, and JT Nero (pen-name Jeremy Lindsay), of JT and the Clouds. British fans should know what to expect from this pair – who combined on JT's recent Mountains/Forests – and Birds of Chicago deliver in full measure. Supported by the likes of Chris Merrill on bass and Mikey August on drums, their music blends Nero's rootsy takes on country idioms with Russell's soulful vocals. Two evocative Russell songs supplement ten pieces by JT, and the classy booklet has all the lyrics.Birds of Chicago will tour to Nottingham's The Maze on April 14." - This is Nottingham


"Compact discs in jewel cases might soon be obsolete, but some of the latest gatefold albums add up to real works of art. Take, for instance, Birds Of Chicago, the first joint release by Allison Russell, of the Po' Girl band, and JT Nero (pen-name Jeremy Lindsay), of JT and the Clouds. British fans should know what to expect from this pair – who combined on JT's recent Mountains/Forests – and Birds of Chicago deliver in full measure. Supported by the likes of Chris Merrill on bass and Mikey August on drums, their music blends Nero's rootsy takes on country idioms with Russell's soulful vocals. Two evocative Russell songs supplement ten pieces by JT, and the classy booklet has all the lyrics.Birds of Chicago will tour to Nottingham's The Maze on April 14." - This is Nottingham


"the blend of the musicians’ voices is truly something to be celebrated at length...Perhaps the most obvious phrase that comes to mind when hearing JT and Allison’s special chemistry is “relaxed passion”, their mellow and assured performing style equally suiting the intimate (almost McGarrigle-esque) waltzery of Galaxy Ballroom, the reflective Old Calcutta and the swaying balladry of The Wide Sea via the more easygoing funk stylings of Trampoline and Come Morning. But they can also bring an even more uplifting, upbeat vibe to their delivery, as on the lightly cajun-inflected Sugar Dumplin’, the countryish Flying Dreams and the carnival-soufflé of Sans Souci. But, great though the voices’ combined harmonies are, I’d still single out as album highlights those tracks where Allison takes the vocal lead, most especially the sublime banjo-flecked evocation of home territory Humboldt Crows and Allison’s own Before She Goes." - Folk and Roots


"4.5/5 stars -Birds Of Chicago excels through the sheer variety and complexity of its sound...There are shades of The Band recognisable throughout an album which has clever and quirky songwriting, as on JT's Moonglow Tapeworm. I particularly liked the mournful Old Calcutta, which includes the lines: 'Then someone comes along and says that Pluto's not a planet, oh I wish with all my heart he had not said it.' All 12 tracks are high quality including the brass-infused finale The Wide Sea. These birds can soar." - The Telegraph


"4.5/5 stars -Birds Of Chicago excels through the sheer variety and complexity of its sound...There are shades of The Band recognisable throughout an album which has clever and quirky songwriting, as on JT's Moonglow Tapeworm. I particularly liked the mournful Old Calcutta, which includes the lines: 'Then someone comes along and says that Pluto's not a planet, oh I wish with all my heart he had not said it.' All 12 tracks are high quality including the brass-infused finale The Wide Sea. These birds can soar." - The Telegraph


" 5 stars -the Birds of Chicago album is an extraordinary start to 2013 and will certainly be in my final Top 10 at the end of the year" - Maverick


" 5 stars -the Birds of Chicago album is an extraordinary start to 2013 and will certainly be in my final Top 10 at the end of the year" - Maverick


"there's much to admire in this latest offering from Chicago-based duo JT Nero and Allison Russell. After honing their songwriting skills in a variety of previous incarnations, the pairing boasts a highly-assured, ultra-melodic style that recalls Paul Simon and a folkier Buckingham/Nicks in equal measure."
- Acoustic Magazine


Their respective bands having toured and collaborated together for several years, Jeremy Lindsay aka JT Nero (from JT and the Clouds) and Alison Russell (Po’ Girl) first sang together over an entire album when she provided harmonies on the former’s Mountains/Forests solo release. The pairing went down so well that they decided to form a joint project, with an identical band line up consisting of all the Clouds members and banjo picker Michelle McGrath plus contributions from Awna Teixeira and Mikey August of Po’ Girl. The only real difference being that, Nero and Russell take turns on lead vocals - his a cracked cross between Sam Cooke and Gram Parsons, hers more a pure, dusty Natalie Merchant - as well as sharing a couple of duets.

Opening with the first, the chugging wheels-rolling country-soul pop of Trampoline, it musically touches on several individual and shared bases, taking in folk, soul, and Appalachian country as well as gospel and doo wop. Sounding a lot like an old Slim Chance number, its easy lazing feel coating the darker lyrics, Cannonball is Nero’s first spotlight, Russell taking up the baton, whistling and soulfully crooning the melancholic self-penned Before She Goes. She only contributes one other number, the Mardi Gras flavoured upbeat San Souci with Lindsay on uke, inspired by meeting her biological family from Grenada, but takes lead on the wistful slow waltzing Galaxy Ballroom, the bluesy soul Come Morning and, also playing banjo and clarinet, Lindsay’s Chicago hymn/lament Humboldt Crows.

Reminiscence, time passing and mortality loom large as themes, the latter informing Moonglow Tapeworm, Lindsay calling on the spirit of Van Morrison as Russell harmonises while childhood memories are evoked on a soul groove Flying Dreams. More upbeat is the accordion backed celebratory Sugar Dumplin’ where "jesus loves a sunbeam baby buddah loves a sunbeam baby allah loves a sunbeam baby," though I’m not quite sure what the existential gist is behind the clarinet-accompanied Old Calcutta and lines like "the swordfish dreams of rising up over the mountain".

The album closes as it began, their voices meshing in a duet with arguably the finest track, The Wide Sea, a beautifully sad ballad that seems to be about a mental breakdown with its line ‘please come back to yourself come back to me’, opening with the pulse of strummed acoustic guitar before piano, horns and handclaps gradually build the emotional mood, evoking the most moving moments of Ben E King, the Everlys and Springsteen. Long may they fly.
- NetRhythms


Their respective bands having toured and collaborated together for several years, Jeremy Lindsay aka JT Nero (from JT and the Clouds) and Alison Russell (Po’ Girl) first sang together over an entire album when she provided harmonies on the former’s Mountains/Forests solo release. The pairing went down so well that they decided to form a joint project, with an identical band line up consisting of all the Clouds members and banjo picker Michelle McGrath plus contributions from Awna Teixeira and Mikey August of Po’ Girl. The only real difference being that, Nero and Russell take turns on lead vocals - his a cracked cross between Sam Cooke and Gram Parsons, hers more a pure, dusty Natalie Merchant - as well as sharing a couple of duets.

Opening with the first, the chugging wheels-rolling country-soul pop of Trampoline, it musically touches on several individual and shared bases, taking in folk, soul, and Appalachian country as well as gospel and doo wop. Sounding a lot like an old Slim Chance number, its easy lazing feel coating the darker lyrics, Cannonball is Nero’s first spotlight, Russell taking up the baton, whistling and soulfully crooning the melancholic self-penned Before She Goes. She only contributes one other number, the Mardi Gras flavoured upbeat San Souci with Lindsay on uke, inspired by meeting her biological family from Grenada, but takes lead on the wistful slow waltzing Galaxy Ballroom, the bluesy soul Come Morning and, also playing banjo and clarinet, Lindsay’s Chicago hymn/lament Humboldt Crows.

Reminiscence, time passing and mortality loom large as themes, the latter informing Moonglow Tapeworm, Lindsay calling on the spirit of Van Morrison as Russell harmonises while childhood memories are evoked on a soul groove Flying Dreams. More upbeat is the accordion backed celebratory Sugar Dumplin’ where "jesus loves a sunbeam baby buddah loves a sunbeam baby allah loves a sunbeam baby," though I’m not quite sure what the existential gist is behind the clarinet-accompanied Old Calcutta and lines like "the swordfish dreams of rising up over the mountain".

The album closes as it began, their voices meshing in a duet with arguably the finest track, The Wide Sea, a beautifully sad ballad that seems to be about a mental breakdown with its line ‘please come back to yourself come back to me’, opening with the pulse of strummed acoustic guitar before piano, horns and handclaps gradually build the emotional mood, evoking the most moving moments of Ben E King, the Everlys and Springsteen. Long may they fly.
- NetRhythms


1. Tell us the interesting story behind the bands moniker.

Here’s the story. We love birds. We live in Chicago. Wait – that’s not interesting at all! It is, however the truth…. it was originally going to be just the name of the album, but we realized, after awhile that continuing to just call ourselves “JT Nero and Allison Russell” was kind of tedious…

2. When did the band form and how long did it take to find the bands own sound?

The band, officially, is just over a year old — but Allison and I have had separate bands – Po’ Girl and JT and the Clouds — who have been playing and touring N America and UK since 2004… those bands have always collaborated, and did so more and more until it seemed like it was time for Allison and I to give our collaboration it’s own name, space, time… Musically it’s been a constant process of evolving, refining… try not to think of that as static thing – as in once it’s “found,” it’s done… the discovery never stops. Having said that, we feel a great deal of telepathy, comfort with each other and our band (the band features veterans of JT and the Clouds) to sort of carve out a musical identity that is true to our influences, but very much our own.

3. What releases have you put out thus far, and which would be the one to listen to for the uninitiated?

Well – we can make the choice pretty easy – our self titled release is the first for this band…

4. Is there a particular live show that stands out amongst all the rest?

We played a festival in the Yosemite area of Northern California – the Strawberry Music Festival — one of the very best roots music fests in the States – in one of the most beautiful mountain settings — we played an early evening set and a Harvest Moon was on the rise… that’s a tough one to forget.

5. Can you talk about a Highlight and a Lowlight of the journey so far?

Well, I’m lazy – so I’ll take that bit of Harvest Moon prose I just banged out as a highlight… lowlight – easy – we were stranded for 14 hours in the Denver Airport last week, trying to get home after a four month tour. When you are told you will be stuck for 14 hours in an airport, the natural, human response is to go to an airport bar and have a few. Which we did… too soon…should have paced ourselves. Created unfortunate phenomenon of getting drunk in an airport, passing out in an airport on some awful bench, then waking up on same awful bench, hungover, only to realize you still have 8 HOURS LEFT in said airport. That was a rough one.

6. What does ‘success’ mean to the band?

Being able to continue traveling the world and knowing that, wherever we go, we can muster up a roomful of people that want to hear us. That’s pretty much it. Alli and I are both restless sojourners, so building an audience that will allow us to keep touring remains the center of the dream. That’s a bunch of words to try and avoid hitting you with the ol’ “it’s the journey, not the destination” cliché. But it is. The journey. We’d like the journey to not be too famished or miserable, but it’s the journey we pay attention to…

7. You are in control of forming a 4 piece ‘super group’ – who is in it and what do they do?

Hmm I will assume this is a living person’s only question – otherwise this would be too tough… Will go with Questlove from The Roots on drums, Dan Auerbach on guitar and vocals, Lauryn Hill on vocals, Chris Merrill from Birds of Chicago on bass…

8. If you and 3 bands of your choosing were to do a world tour, who would the other 3 bands be?

Hmmm I like a mixed bag style wise… so let’s say Gillian Welch/David Rawlings, Feist, D’Angelo, Mavis Staples

9. If you could make one strange dressing room demand, what would it be and why?

Would like room heated to 105 f for hot yoga practice before show…. we’ve become creepy, bikram yoga cult members to save our bodies from constant touring….

10. Finally, in a climate saturated with bands vying for listener attention; why should the good old folks at home listen to you guys?

Listening to our music has been shown in studies, to improve circulation, reduce anxiety and encourage weight loss. In some cases it has also been known to cause priapysms – erections lasting longer than 3 hours. If this occurs, people should immediately consult their doctors.

Ahhh you know questions like this our tough! Serious answer — we treat every show like a serious thing – it’s our kind of agnostic gospel… there’s an exchange between human beings possible through song that we don’t really get anywhere else in life… that we don’t take lightly. Always trying to catch that feeling…

Birds of Chicago are JT Nero and Allison Russell
See them play Belfast’s Ulster Museum in Botanic Gardens on Friday 26th April 2013
Tickets available from No Alibis

// Website - http://birdsofchicago.com/

- Chordblossom


The Light Touch Of TimeWords by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Shawn Biggs at Studio Paradiso, San Francisco, California
We could all just be morons. We could all be blind morons for not seeing it, most of the time. We should be able to look out and see colors - even the gritty, frosted white of salt on a frozen road, or the side of a car - as brilliant to behold. We should be able to hear birds squawking up in the trees above us and not only worry or grumble about the possibility of getting shit on by one of them. We should be able to stifle our sadness at a funeral for someone who lived to a rip old age and did so much, even if they meant the world to us and we'll miss them like crazy. We should understand that they, like us, only wanted the maximum days they could get to play with, and if they weren't short-changed, they loved and were loved greatly and didn't hurt too much, they got it all - everything that there is to get. We should be good with watching the spring come back to the land, after a brutal winter. We should be wise enough to not speak too much and to smile and hug readily.

JT Nero and Allison Russell, who make up the core of the Chicago-based group Birds of Chicago, seem to appreciate the little things and the bygone things. They write these picturesque songs that still deal with desperate love and the hardships that you don't have to find. They will always find you, but then you just need to find a way to quell them. All it usually takes is a dash of the bright side. It takes slicing that first ripe tomato from the summer garden. It takes drinking in a night full of friends and food and deliriously joyful talking. It takes knowing that all of this madness is beautifully meaningful - the sleepless nights, the crying, the laughing, the losing and the winning.

When Russell sings that "the years floated by like cotton seeds and now the long-legged two-stepper turns 73," she sends the words out and onto a breeze, along with those cotton seeds. It's a wonderful way to capture how old age can feel if you've gotten the most out of it. The song, "Galaxy Ballroom," feels like a place that you'd like to ascend to when your earthly waltz has come to an end. Nero and Russell make rainy and sunny days feel exactly the same - like treasures.
- Daytrotter


The Light Touch Of TimeWords by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Shawn Biggs at Studio Paradiso, San Francisco, California
We could all just be morons. We could all be blind morons for not seeing it, most of the time. We should be able to look out and see colors - even the gritty, frosted white of salt on a frozen road, or the side of a car - as brilliant to behold. We should be able to hear birds squawking up in the trees above us and not only worry or grumble about the possibility of getting shit on by one of them. We should be able to stifle our sadness at a funeral for someone who lived to a rip old age and did so much, even if they meant the world to us and we'll miss them like crazy. We should understand that they, like us, only wanted the maximum days they could get to play with, and if they weren't short-changed, they loved and were loved greatly and didn't hurt too much, they got it all - everything that there is to get. We should be good with watching the spring come back to the land, after a brutal winter. We should be wise enough to not speak too much and to smile and hug readily.

JT Nero and Allison Russell, who make up the core of the Chicago-based group Birds of Chicago, seem to appreciate the little things and the bygone things. They write these picturesque songs that still deal with desperate love and the hardships that you don't have to find. They will always find you, but then you just need to find a way to quell them. All it usually takes is a dash of the bright side. It takes slicing that first ripe tomato from the summer garden. It takes drinking in a night full of friends and food and deliriously joyful talking. It takes knowing that all of this madness is beautifully meaningful - the sleepless nights, the crying, the laughing, the losing and the winning.

When Russell sings that "the years floated by like cotton seeds and now the long-legged two-stepper turns 73," she sends the words out and onto a breeze, along with those cotton seeds. It's a wonderful way to capture how old age can feel if you've gotten the most out of it. The song, "Galaxy Ballroom," feels like a place that you'd like to ascend to when your earthly waltz has come to an end. Nero and Russell make rainy and sunny days feel exactly the same - like treasures.
- Daytrotter


In early 2012 Jeremy Lindsay aka JT Nero and Allison Russell from Po’ Girl did a mini tour of the UK coupled with a handful of US Festivals together; promoting the latest JT and the Clouds album Mountains/Forests. As well as playing songs from that album they seamlessly slid in a few new songs ‘that they were working on’ and these have subsequently been fleshed out to become the duos debut album under the guise; Birds of Chicago.

I’ve been a fan of both singers for a few years now but could never have imagined how good they would be singing together; complimenting each other like gin and tonic.

To those out there who haven’t heard JT before, he has a voice often described as ‘broken Country-Soul’ but his songs are like Poetry set to some of the finest Roots melodies that you’ll ever hear in this lifetime.

On the peculiar love song Cannonball Lindsay makes passion sound effortless; but when you see him perform songs like this live you see him screw up his eyes and nervously tap out the beat with his bare feet on the stage as he desperately tries to convey the complicated message of love. None of the songs are ever literal or straightforward and it’s probably best that we don’t know what is going on inside his head when he’s writing them; but the result is never less than interesting and quite often spectacularly wonderful.

JT takes the lead on most songs but Allison’s harmonies and backing vocals have to be heard to be believed; and when she does get the opportunity to sing lead – on Galaxy Ballroom and Before She Goes she manages to sound like a Folk singing Diana Ross; with the results being as dreamy as a balmy night under the stars on the deck of a yacht bobbing about in the Mediterranean.

One of the fledgling songs that I remembered from the gig in Newcastle was Sugar Dumplin’ which appears in all it’s glory here. Now with an accordion, guitar and shaker backing we hear JT conveying his love in a way only he understands – ‘We are sunbeams/Jesus loves a sunbeam/Buddha loves a sunbeam/Allah loves a sunbeam baby’ but the hook is just that; a hook to drag you into his crazy world and it’s a world that is a lot more fun than the one we normally inhabit.

BIRDS OF CHICAGO is a silly name for a duo as good as these two; but the album is an extraordinary start to 2013 and will certainly be in my Final Top 10 at the end of the year.

http://birdsofchicago.com/

UK release January 28th 2013 - No Depression


You might recognize JT Nero from his band JT & the Clouds. You might recognize Allison Nero as one third of Po'Girl. Indeed both those outfits made waves in the contemporary folk, roots, and indie music circuits. But, through the years, Nero and Russell discovered they were both lending their instruments and voices to each other's projects with increasing frequency and, finally, they decided to make the collaboration official. With the release of their debut album in 2012, Birds of Chicago's stripped down guitar-and-banjo Kickstarter-funded debut album (purchase/download) is showing that there is whimsy to be found in the intensely personal, and magic hiding in even the thickest shadows. I caught up with Nero and Russell while they were on tour in San Francisco for a quick phoner about life, music, and why they're one of this year's artists to watch.
Kim Ruehl: I was familiar with JT and the Clouds and Po’Girl...just wondering what made you guys finally make the leap into a full band together?
JT: It definitely felt like a natural evolution, particularly with Alli and me singing together, we were finding more and more excuses to sing on each other’s records. Itw as a growing thing, just a natural, special thing, that it became clear we needed to map out its own space and give it its own name. it really coalesced my last solo record, which we always joke about putting solo in quotes now because we think of it as more of our first Birds of Chicago record, where Alli wound up singing and playing on every single song. That’s when it became clear that it was its own thing. That was the first time we used the guys from the Clouds as the house band. It was a great time, when we had that combination of people all together and it felt so good and right, it was the jumping-off point.

KR: It’s clear the music itself sounds like whatever would exist halfway between Po’Girl and JT and the Clouds. Are you writing together now, or do you still write separately then come together to influence the growth of the song?
JT: We still write separately, at least with the bones of the song. From my perspective, from the Clouds or whatever I was doing with my solo work, I would always do the initial writing by myself but there’s always been an aspect of trust in knowing that once I brought it to the other musicians, it would morph and take on…go in directions I hadn’t anticipated. That’s the joy of the situation we have. That’s continued in Birds of Chicago. Both Alli and me write the bones of the song individually, but when it gets brought to the forum, it always morphs and changes. I actually always look forward to that process.

KR: I’ve been hung up on this Tapeworm song (purchase/download "The Moonglow Tapeworm") for days now. How do you turn a completely non-musical word like Tapeworm into this incredible, insightful song. Did you have a tapeworm at the time?
JT: [laughs] it’s funny – a lot of times when I write, it comes down to – I love words and I love playing with them. So much of songwriting, as opposed to any other kind of writing, is that it comes down to remembering it’s just a bunch of syllables and consonants and your mouth has to love the sound of it, has to enjoy the shape of it all together. When I was younger, it would be like I have these ideas I want to say and I’d just put them into the song. It’s the opposite nowadays with these phrases that’ll tumble out and I have to figure out later where they were leading me. That’s a good example – I was just messing around with “I’ve got this and I’ve got that.” The moonglow and the tapeworm popped out.

KR: It sounds like what you were saying is that, when you’re younger, you have this urgency of let me just say exactly what’s on my chest, as opposed to when you get to know your craft a little more, you can explore the nuances. So it’s a growth thing…is that what you’re saying?
JT: Yeah, you know I think it’s a trap young songwriters fall into. I definitely did. I think early on you approach songwriting the way you’d approach essay writing – come up with a set of ideas you want to put forth in the world, map it out, then hammer that into the shape of a song. As time has gone on, for me, it’s much more visceral and spiritual. I'm getting at the relationship between melody and sound and words. When you use that approach of painting with words, there’s a random fragment of a sentence in your head repeating itself over and over. I have to follow that thread to the song. I have more of a sense that there’s already a song there and I'm just chiseling away to get to that place... I get a little glimmer and you chase it down.

KR: Alli, I was wondering about how this project is different for you from what you were doing with Po’Girl, and whether you feel like you’re approaching music from a different place now.
AR: For sure. I’ve gotten more exploratory with the instruments and textures on this project. I’m going in as more of an instrumentalist, so I get - About.Com Folk Music


You might recognize JT Nero from his band JT & the Clouds. You might recognize Allison Nero as one third of Po'Girl. Indeed both those outfits made waves in the contemporary folk, roots, and indie music circuits. But, through the years, Nero and Russell discovered they were both lending their instruments and voices to each other's projects with increasing frequency and, finally, they decided to make the collaboration official. With the release of their debut album in 2012, Birds of Chicago's stripped down guitar-and-banjo Kickstarter-funded debut album (purchase/download) is showing that there is whimsy to be found in the intensely personal, and magic hiding in even the thickest shadows. I caught up with Nero and Russell while they were on tour in San Francisco for a quick phoner about life, music, and why they're one of this year's artists to watch.
Kim Ruehl: I was familiar with JT and the Clouds and Po’Girl...just wondering what made you guys finally make the leap into a full band together?
JT: It definitely felt like a natural evolution, particularly with Alli and me singing together, we were finding more and more excuses to sing on each other’s records. Itw as a growing thing, just a natural, special thing, that it became clear we needed to map out its own space and give it its own name. it really coalesced my last solo record, which we always joke about putting solo in quotes now because we think of it as more of our first Birds of Chicago record, where Alli wound up singing and playing on every single song. That’s when it became clear that it was its own thing. That was the first time we used the guys from the Clouds as the house band. It was a great time, when we had that combination of people all together and it felt so good and right, it was the jumping-off point.

KR: It’s clear the music itself sounds like whatever would exist halfway between Po’Girl and JT and the Clouds. Are you writing together now, or do you still write separately then come together to influence the growth of the song?
JT: We still write separately, at least with the bones of the song. From my perspective, from the Clouds or whatever I was doing with my solo work, I would always do the initial writing by myself but there’s always been an aspect of trust in knowing that once I brought it to the other musicians, it would morph and take on…go in directions I hadn’t anticipated. That’s the joy of the situation we have. That’s continued in Birds of Chicago. Both Alli and me write the bones of the song individually, but when it gets brought to the forum, it always morphs and changes. I actually always look forward to that process.

KR: I’ve been hung up on this Tapeworm song (purchase/download "The Moonglow Tapeworm") for days now. How do you turn a completely non-musical word like Tapeworm into this incredible, insightful song. Did you have a tapeworm at the time?
JT: [laughs] it’s funny – a lot of times when I write, it comes down to – I love words and I love playing with them. So much of songwriting, as opposed to any other kind of writing, is that it comes down to remembering it’s just a bunch of syllables and consonants and your mouth has to love the sound of it, has to enjoy the shape of it all together. When I was younger, it would be like I have these ideas I want to say and I’d just put them into the song. It’s the opposite nowadays with these phrases that’ll tumble out and I have to figure out later where they were leading me. That’s a good example – I was just messing around with “I’ve got this and I’ve got that.” The moonglow and the tapeworm popped out.

KR: It sounds like what you were saying is that, when you’re younger, you have this urgency of let me just say exactly what’s on my chest, as opposed to when you get to know your craft a little more, you can explore the nuances. So it’s a growth thing…is that what you’re saying?
JT: Yeah, you know I think it’s a trap young songwriters fall into. I definitely did. I think early on you approach songwriting the way you’d approach essay writing – come up with a set of ideas you want to put forth in the world, map it out, then hammer that into the shape of a song. As time has gone on, for me, it’s much more visceral and spiritual. I'm getting at the relationship between melody and sound and words. When you use that approach of painting with words, there’s a random fragment of a sentence in your head repeating itself over and over. I have to follow that thread to the song. I have more of a sense that there’s already a song there and I'm just chiseling away to get to that place... I get a little glimmer and you chase it down.

KR: Alli, I was wondering about how this project is different for you from what you were doing with Po’Girl, and whether you feel like you’re approaching music from a different place now.
AR: For sure. I’ve gotten more exploratory with the instruments and textures on this project. I’m going in as more of an instrumentalist, so I get - About.Com Folk Music


Birds of Chicago


( 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."
- The Chicago Tribune


With their self-titled album set to release on October 2, Birds of Chicago showcase their aptitude for capturing Americana music in its most natural form.
The album is made up of 12 original songs which encompass all the bluesy soul, acoustic power, and festive melodies that one should expect from the band L.A. times is calling “This year’s biggest roots surprise.”
“Trampoline” leads off the album with a joyful atmosphere that displays beautiful harmony and connection found between the two singer/songwriters that the collective is formed around, JT Nero and Allison Russell. Full of jazzy rhythms and a folksy jam-band ambiance, it undoubtedly gives the album room the spread its wings. “Trampoline” is available for download here.
However blissful “Trampoline” may be, it certainly does not set the mood for the entire album, frankly, because no one song on the album could do so. Birds of Chicago take the listener through a tour of Americana music: from up-beat barnyard jamborees, to haunting gospel-infused guitar ballads, and even a few surprises in between (like “Sans Souci,” the latin-like polka ditty that I would expect to hear at some Cantina in Arizona.)
The 12-track album elegantly flows from one song to the next. The bluesy tune, “Before She Goes,” the acoustically driven “Cannonball,” the Spanish-polka twist “Sans Souci,” and the gospel-infused “The Wide Sea” are all masterfully blended with the other tracks of the album to make a smooth, well-balanced listen.
The gentle huskiness of Nero’s voice is like a far-off summer storm: a quiet gentle roll of thunder that let’s you know cooler weather is on its way. Perfectly balanced by the pure golden smoothness of Russell’s voice, the two refuse to disappoint throughout the album, though I highly recommend “Galaxy Ballroom” to truly hear the duo’s majesty.
Hatched between the partnership of the two singers, Birds of Chicago is backed up by Nero’s band, The Cloud, and the wonderful singer and picker Michelle McGrath heralding from Southeast Ohio. Birds of Chicago have created an album that is sure to have Americana and folk fans craving for more. The good news is; the band loves to travel. They’ll be at festivals, pubs, and maybe even a few household locations for the 8 weeks to 2 years, so check out they’re touring schedule - Candor News


With their self-titled album set to release on October 2, Birds of Chicago showcase their aptitude for capturing Americana music in its most natural form.
The album is made up of 12 original songs which encompass all the bluesy soul, acoustic power, and festive melodies that one should expect from the band L.A. times is calling “This year’s biggest roots surprise.”
“Trampoline” leads off the album with a joyful atmosphere that displays beautiful harmony and connection found between the two singer/songwriters that the collective is formed around, JT Nero and Allison Russell. Full of jazzy rhythms and a folksy jam-band ambiance, it undoubtedly gives the album room the spread its wings. “Trampoline” is available for download here.
However blissful “Trampoline” may be, it certainly does not set the mood for the entire album, frankly, because no one song on the album could do so. Birds of Chicago take the listener through a tour of Americana music: from up-beat barnyard jamborees, to haunting gospel-infused guitar ballads, and even a few surprises in between (like “Sans Souci,” the latin-like polka ditty that I would expect to hear at some Cantina in Arizona.)
The 12-track album elegantly flows from one song to the next. The bluesy tune, “Before She Goes,” the acoustically driven “Cannonball,” the Spanish-polka twist “Sans Souci,” and the gospel-infused “The Wide Sea” are all masterfully blended with the other tracks of the album to make a smooth, well-balanced listen.
The gentle huskiness of Nero’s voice is like a far-off summer storm: a quiet gentle roll of thunder that let’s you know cooler weather is on its way. Perfectly balanced by the pure golden smoothness of Russell’s voice, the two refuse to disappoint throughout the album, though I highly recommend “Galaxy Ballroom” to truly hear the duo’s majesty.
Hatched between the partnership of the two singers, Birds of Chicago is backed up by Nero’s band, The Cloud, and the wonderful singer and picker Michelle McGrath heralding from Southeast Ohio. Birds of Chicago have created an album that is sure to have Americana and folk fans craving for more. The good news is; the band loves to travel. They’ll be at festivals, pubs, and maybe even a few household locations for the 8 weeks to 2 years, so check out they’re touring schedule - Candor News


few months ago I interviewed Allison Russell (Po’ Girl) about her latest project Sankofa, a jug band that includes Dom Flemons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. During that interview we also covered her most recent project Birds of Chicago, a duo endeavour with JT Nero (of JT and the Clouds). They have been touring together for years with each other’s bands and deciding to do a record together, created the Birds Of Chicago. It very quickly becomes apparent why when you first listen to their self-titled debut album.

What strikes us immediately is just how well Russell’s and Nero’s voices match each other. They both have this soothing, jazz-smooth quality while including just the right bit of scratch. This only adds to the fact that like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, the whole of this album would make excellent campfire music.

The opening track “Trampoline” furthers this “fun summer music” vibe, as we can rock along to the beat and the lively instrumentation. This is not to say that the music is vapid pop; rather it takes a few listens to pick up how many different instruments are contained in the tracks of the album. The guitar solo in “Trampoline” will bring a smile to your face as well, rounding out an uplifting number.The other duet on the album is “The Wide Sea,” as for the rest Nero and Russell switch off singing lead. As an album closer, “The Wide Sea” is more subdued and contemplative, and the longing with which Russell sings the “ra-ta-ta-ta” of raindrops is simply beautiful. I do wish that there were more duets on the album, as the interchange between Nero’s country-folk and Russell’s folk/jazz mesh like old friends. While this is admittedly a nitpick, it does leave us wanting more. Perhaps that is not necessarily a bad thing either.

For the Nero lead songs, another great inclusion is “Cannonball.” The backing chorus will make you want to hum along, all the while sounding like the soundbirds of spring. The song itself mixes well feelings of jubiliation of summertime, and the darker tale of a young child getting beaten. Even so, there’s an uplifting message here; “if you wanna do right by that boy’s heart/gather your kin/go down to the park/bucket of chicken/a bottle of beer/let those sons of b*****s know that love is still here.” It’s one of the songs with gospel tinges that you can listen to wholeheartedly even if you yourself are not religious.

Nero’s voice, as well as Russell’s is very adaptive to the tone of each song. In “Galaxy Ballroom”, Nero is quiet and comforting, as you can just imagine a room full of elderly couples dancing a slow waltz to their approaching deaths. However, the feeling isn’t solemn, as Nero tells us “we are older than the mountains younger than tommorow/our love was so fantastic do you saddle it with sorrow.” In “Sugar Dumplin’” he is celebratory and welcoming, as the lyrics speak of an understanding of humanity's common equalities and differences, as Russell explained in my interview with her. My favorite part is the lyrics “jesus loves a sunbeam baby/buddah loves a sunbeam baby/allah loves a sunbeam baby,” as even though I am not religious in any way myself, I like the laid back approach and acceptance within the lyrics. Also, if you don’t like the lyrics, you can at least enjoy the accordion!

Nero also likes to change up the structure of the songs in “The Moonglow/ The Tapeworm” as mid way through the song he breaks into a quick bit of spoken lyrics. As the subject of the song is leaning towards death, Nero interjects with “now everybody freeze/I wanna remember what it is I see/that rat in the alley big as a pony/streetlamps hummin’ lowly/two rows of cars/ four dim stars from your window and no more/c’mon” before picking up the beat right back up again. It’s to great effect as it show us that we should enjoy and memorize the moment, even if we are nearing the end of our life.

From the Russell offerings, the two that stand out are “Before She Goes” and “San Souci.” “Before She Goes” is melancholic in tone and rhythym, while somber in Russell’s vocals. The sections where she and Nero hum or whistle paint a picture of a lonely traveler, heading through the Prairies in winter. It may also be a sister piece to “Humboldt Crows” which matches it in feel and tone.

Noticeably more upbeat is “San Souci,” a carefree (literally, as the title translates to “without worry or care”) festival song that you could imagine coming from Louisiana or Mardi Gras. Inspired by meeting her biological family (Russell was adopted and grew up in Montreal) who came from Grenada (which has French history), the palpable amounts of joy behind Russell’s vocals will make you want to get up and dance along.

Birds of Chicago is a good collection of summer and winter songs that are accompanied by able instrumentation (check out the clarinet on “Old Calcutta”), and as such is a great listen. We can do nothing less but recommend you pick up a copy or catch a live show of the - Press+1


New music like this doesn't come along often enough.

JT Nero (the nom de guerre for Toledo native Jeremy Lindsay) and Allison Russell form a musical partnership that squeezes out sparks of creativity, beauty, and soulful grace over the course of 12 universally excellent songs. Sometimes it's breath-taking the way their voices blend ("The Wide Sea"), and other times it's just good fun (the bouncy opener "Trampoline), resulting in a disc that transcends labels and exists in its own time and space.

Lindsay is based in Chicago and records solo as JT Nero and in band form with JT and the Clouds. Russell is a member of Po Girl, a Canadian folk/roots band. The two have been singing together since about 2006, including on the 2010 JT Nero disc, "Mountains/Forests."

He wrote all but two of the songs and as a lyricist generally writes narratives with a strong literary bent, or abstract pieces that are more like paintings than songs. Nature themes abound among the images that spill out on "Birds of Chicago" -- seasons change and the weather shifts and there are porpoises and crows and vipers and pigeons and bees.

"Old Calcutta" is a naturalist fever dream filled with strange ideas that float from light to heavy as Russell weaves magic on clarinet. "Galaxy Ballroom" -- featuring heart-breaking sublime vocals from Russell -- is a gentle country waltz about grieving gracefully. And the closer "The Wide Sea" has an almost U2-like bass line under a soaring vocal from both singers and wonderful piano accompaniment from Drew Lindsay, Jeremy's brother.

Stylistically, the Birds careen from folk to soul to pop to country in a blend of intelligence and influences so immersed in originality that they are consumed by the music. It just sounds like Birds of Chicago, which is a very good thing.

-- R.L. - The Toledo Blade


New music like this doesn't come along often enough.

JT Nero (the nom de guerre for Toledo native Jeremy Lindsay) and Allison Russell form a musical partnership that squeezes out sparks of creativity, beauty, and soulful grace over the course of 12 universally excellent songs. Sometimes it's breath-taking the way their voices blend ("The Wide Sea"), and other times it's just good fun (the bouncy opener "Trampoline), resulting in a disc that transcends labels and exists in its own time and space.

Lindsay is based in Chicago and records solo as JT Nero and in band form with JT and the Clouds. Russell is a member of Po Girl, a Canadian folk/roots band. The two have been singing together since about 2006, including on the 2010 JT Nero disc, "Mountains/Forests."

He wrote all but two of the songs and as a lyricist generally writes narratives with a strong literary bent, or abstract pieces that are more like paintings than songs. Nature themes abound among the images that spill out on "Birds of Chicago" -- seasons change and the weather shifts and there are porpoises and crows and vipers and pigeons and bees.

"Old Calcutta" is a naturalist fever dream filled with strange ideas that float from light to heavy as Russell weaves magic on clarinet. "Galaxy Ballroom" -- featuring heart-breaking sublime vocals from Russell -- is a gentle country waltz about grieving gracefully. And the closer "The Wide Sea" has an almost U2-like bass line under a soaring vocal from both singers and wonderful piano accompaniment from Drew Lindsay, Jeremy's brother.

Stylistically, the Birds careen from folk to soul to pop to country in a blend of intelligence and influences so immersed in originality that they are consumed by the music. It just sounds like Birds of Chicago, which is a very good thing.

-- R.L. - The Toledo Blade


Two words appear in virtually every description of the Jeremy Lindsay/Allison Russell collaboration known as Birds of Chicago:

Roots.

Americana.

They're handy terms for trying to pin down the magic that occurs when the pair sings together -- ably backed by Lindsay's Chicago-based band the Clouds -- but they're also inherently limiting because who isn't a "roots" artist? The Foo Fighters have roots and so does Taylor Swift.

Who could be more rootsy than Bob Dylan, who has made a career out of dipping into old musical styles and reworking them? But you never hear Dylan's body of work described as "roots" music.

And Americana is a vague term that implies dusty forays into traditionalism even though the Birds of Chicago's self-titled album is vibrant and very much of the moment. The world that Lindsay, a Toledo native, and the Canadian Russell explore in their lyrics and sounds might have traditional roots (there's that word again), but there's nothing stodgy about their approach.

You can judge for yourself Wednesday night when they perform at the Village Idiot in Maumee. For the time being, perhaps its best to let Lindsay's affection for The Band, another group that featured great harmonies, acoustic instrumentation, and a blending of folk, blues, soul, R&B and rock, speak for the source of the Birds of Chicago's approach.

"There probably isn't one single bigger band influence than those guys and probably the biggest thing is that there's a similar ethic where there's a great blending of all this American roots music -- gospel, blues, ragtime, country -- but the thing we take from them as a continuing inspiration is that with the Band, it always seemed like more than the sum of its parts," he said in a phone interview from a van traveling through New Mexico.

Lindsay said he's not keen on music described with "a bunch of hyphens. 'Oh, this is a country-folk-blues tune" and the songs he writes for the Birds, his solo work as JT Nero, and with his band JT and Clouds should honor the sources of inspiration while infusing it with his own personality.

"You should never hide from your influences, but at the same time you want to create a little pocket of something that feels like your own."

The Birds of Chicago collaboration began in about 2006 when Lindsay tagged along with Russell's band Po Girl on a tour of Europe. The two had known each other since 2003 and were mutual fans, so they began singing together and turning up on each other's albums and tours.

The pairing of Lindsay's soulful, idiosyncratic, and rich vocal style with Russell's beautiful, supple range, and flexibility is a natural partnership that also was explored on the JT Nero album "Mountains/Forest," on which she sang harmonies.

"She's just an incredibly dynamic singer. She's real, real good at handling complicated turns of phrase pretty delicately and she can also belt when she needs to," Lindsay said. "I never have to worry about her knowing when to do either. She's got that gift, probably because she's a songwriter in her own right."

It also allows him to write songs from a female perspective, something he does most effectively on "Come Morning," a gripping tale of a soldier's wife dealing with her psychologically damaged husband, one of several songs that feature Russell on lead vocals.

"I wanted to frame a story a woman could tell, and I had been reading a lot in Illinois about wives of soldiers and kind of what a rough go it is," Lindsay said. "There's not much romanticizing of this particular generation of soldiers and their wives because no one knows what the heck's going on with them a lot of the time."

The voices of Russell and Lindsay weave a spell on many of the songs, whether it's upbeat romps such as "Trampoline" or "Sugar Dumplin'" or pensive ballads like "Galaxy Ballroom" or the exceptional album closer "The Wide Sea."

"From a writing perspective, I love old country and soul duets and when you have another distinct persona it really just opens up the way you can write," Lindsay said.

Then there is "Old Calcutta," which he sings and which features a series of phantasmagoric images and phrases that tell a strange story that perhaps only the writer understands even though the song rattles around in your mind long after it's over.

Sample lyrics: "...I know sometimes you feel like you are dying like a porpoise/In a meadow in the summer and your skin begins to blister/And all the farmer's wife can do is stare at you and wonder."

"That would be a good example where sometimes I just write toward a feeling, and I was thinking about literally just about the constant kind of feeling of trying to find your peace in a turbulent and violent world that is incredibly unpredictable," he said.

"That's a theme that turns up a fair bit on that record. And it's almost not like finding peace... it's more like trying to take it in all at once and find a way to love it. I never want to be heavy han - The Toledo Blade


Americana is getting crowded with young male-female duos such as Shovels & Rope and the Civil Wars, but there's always room for one more, right? Yes, especially since JT Nero and Allison Russell were already longtime collaborators before they made it official as Birds of Chicago. Their brand-new eponymous debut (the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign) has already been hailed as one of the year's best roots debuts by the Chicago Sun-Times and L.A. Times, and exudes the kind of radiant harmonies and easy acoustic familiarity — spliced with clarinet, accordion and ukulele — that are difficult to fake. - Houston Press


Birds of Chicago, "Birds of Chicago" (BOC)
As refreshing and rewarding as morning in the reeds with the Audobon Society, Birds of Chicago is actually the naturalistic pairing of Chicago's JT Nero (as in JT & the Clouds) and Vancouver's Allison Russell (Po' Girl). After working together on a JT project (2011's "Mountains/Forests"), they wisely realized they had something special in their organic harmonies and wistful affections for the wide variety of music under the auspices of Americana. The braiding of their singular voices is surprising and often magical -- bouncing over the bass grooves of "Trampoline," boogieing through the Cajun howdown of "Sans Souci," blithely regarding the "Humboldt Crows" in the park -- and the flock of musicians on board for the record provide a downy padding to the blend. It's like Delaney & Bonnie sitting in with Poi Dog Pondering -- a record sweet as birdsong.

In concert: Birds of Chicago celebrates the release of this album Nov. 10 at the Old Town School of Folk Music. - The Chicago-Sun Times


AMERICANA UK - OUR TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2011 (FINALLY)

with some noticeable omissions

Another year gone, another list. We have collectively put our heads together to thrash out what we believe were the best releases of 2011 – and here are the results. Some of us struggled to make it up to ten and some of us struggled to make it down to ten. It was that kind of year. The times, possibly, are a-changing: no place in the overall ten for Ryan Adams or Richmond Fontaine – easy shoe-ins in previous years.

Instead the likes of Polly Harvey make a respectable appearance. Wilco were by far and away the most respected in terms of votes, getting more mentions than anyone else. We think that it is a pretty good list, reflecting as it does all of the phrases “Americana, alt.Country and Alternative” in our strap line. Comments and observations are always welcome from our readers – why not try, for example, our Reader’s Forum – its the AUK window on the world.

Many thanks to the editorial staff, the writers, the reviewers, the subscribers and the general reading public for help and support in 2011. We’ve been at this for ten years now – here’s to the next ten starting with 2012 (unless the apocalypse or the death of the cd format get us first...)

Paul Villers



The Americana UK Top Ten Releases of 2011


1) Wilco - "The Whole Love"
2) JT Nero - "Mountains/Forests"
3) PJ Harvey - "Let England Shake”
4) The Miserable Rich - "Miss You In The Days"
5) Megafaun - "Megafaun"
6) Gillian Welch - "The Harrow and the Harvest"
7) King Creosote and Jon Hopkins - "Diamond Mine"
8 ) The Felice Brothers - "Celebration, Florida"
9) Fountains of Wayne - "Sky Full of Holes"
10) Real Estate - "Days"


- Americana UK


JT Nero and Allison Russell spent the holidays in an isolated family cabin on Door County’s Washington Island. There wasn’t a music venue in sight, and it was a welcome respite from time spent on the road over the past year.

“We don’t have much time off so it was a nice little vacation,” Nero said. “Time just sort of collapses up there but now we’re back to reality.”

That reality includes more touring around this country, Canada and Europe. But before it all gets started the duo stops in at the Old Town School of Folk Music to entice the hometown crowd with its lovely and lively brand of roots music. They open for legendary roots artist Alejandro Escovedo.

Chicagoans will recognize Nero (his given name is Jeremy Lindsay) as a member of the Chicago rock and soul outfit, the Clouds. Russell is a founding member of the Canadian roots ensemble Po’ Girls. The two bands have been collaborating since around 2004.

“I think the bands gravitated towards each other because we were drawn to the same music in terms of blues, gospel, country and soul,” Nero said. “And we weren’t paying too much attention to the perceived boundaries between them but instead finding the touchpoints between them.”

But it wasn’t until 2007 when a solo Lindsay went on tour with Po’ Girls that the duo began singing together and tapped into the bewitching power of their harmony work. After Russell performed on the Clouds’ album “Mountains/Forests,” Nero realized it was time “for a proper duo record.” Besides, buzz was building about their musical partnership.

“It was time to record something where Allison wasn’t incognito,” Nero, 40, said. “It seemed like a natural progression.”

They are currently at work putting the finishing touches on “Birds of Chicago,” due out sometime in the summer.

Listen to their voices separately and you might not think they go together; listen to them joined and it’s a bewitching mix. Match that with fine, nuanced songwriting and you have two of the most compelling new voices in American roots music.

Lindsay is a country-soul crooner and when paired with the clarity of Russell’s delicate vocals something beautiful emerges. It’s not perfect, a little off but that makes for an even more intriguing mix of harmonies.

“That’s part of what drew us together,” Russell, 32, said. “Our voices are different but comfortable together. We found that sweet spot.”

Added Nero: “From the first time we started singing together, there was a naturalness and ease to it. When something like that happens, you don’t want to think about it too much. Just enjoy it.”

Nero grew up in Toledo, Ohio, where his parents, who taught in the English department at the University of Toledo, had a wide-ranging vinyl collection.

“But I rebelled and was a hip-hop kid,” Nero said, laughing. “I pretended there was no other music.”

That all changed one day when his mother made him listen to Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.”

“I was floored by the harmonies and the way the words were used so powerfully,” Nero recalled. “At 16, it broke me out of my spell. I would still play N.W.A. and Run DMC on my boombox. But now I was also playing Simon and Garfunkel.”

Hungry for more, Nero soaked up the music of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Etta James and Aretha Franklin. From there, he nurtured an interest in gospel and other traditional Americana genres.

Eventually, songwriting became a passion: “It became a vital, necessary function like breathing.”

Russell is a native of Montreal where her family was musical but only classical (“nothing before 1870”) was allowed in the house. She credits an aunt who was a songwriter with helping her “realize that modern living people could write music too.”

Music was sidelined when Russell thought she might go into medicine. She did a year of pre-med which was disastrous: “Studying theory was fine. Dissecting a fetal pig was not.”

A move to Vancouver with its vibrant folk scene set her on a path back to music and songwriting.

“It was a great environment for trying a lot of new things,” Russell said. “I really thrived in that culture.”

Completely self-taught, Russell, who was in the ensemble of “Keep a Song in Your Soul,” a tribute to black vaudeville that debuted in November at the Old Town School, plays banjo, ukulele, guitar and clarinet in addition to singing.

She’s also a darn good whistler. It’s something she wasn’t sure she wanted featured on a song on the new album. But Nero prevailed in his request to keep it.

“I will cave on a lot of things but not on that,” Nero said, laughing.

As for another year of non-stop touring, Nero and Russell both say they are looking forward to showcasing the music they love.

“If you’re going to make a career in music these days, you have to be comfortable putting time in on the road,” Nero said. “It’s the one thing we can control. And we do love it. It’s definitely in our blood.”

Mary Houlihan is a local free-lance - Chicago SunTimes


JT Nero - Mountains / Forests
JT Nero and The Clouds album Caledonia caught my attention back in March of this year and I’m pleased to see the previous JT Nero album Mountains / Forests now gets a formal release on CD in the UK, there’s a tour to support the release with dates running through November and December, for the visit to these shores Jeremy Lindsay a.k.a JT Nero (guitar, vocals) teams up with Po’Girl’s Allison Russell (banjo , vocals) and Mikey August (drums, piano) both of who perform with him under the JT Nero banner on the CD, also playing and singing on the album are Dan Abu-Absi (guitars, mandolin), Ben Sidelinger (guitar, dobro, banjo), Michelle McGrath (banjo, vocals), Drew Lindsay (keys) and Christopher Merrill (electric / upright bass) .

In comparison to the excellent Caledonia this album is a pared back affair centred around the gorgeous vocal combination of Lindsay’s country-soul and Russell’s burnished tones which work their not inconsiderable charms bringing to life the songs all of which are Lindsay originals, there’s a real musical alchemy in action on this album and the contributors have worked some magic in creating a set of tunes that are a real delight to listen to start to finish – one to file under essential listening and the good news doesn’t end there as Lindsay and Russell are working on a duo album entitled Birds of Chicago Volume 1 which is planned for release in the Spring of next year, all the signs are it will be one to look out for.

- Beat Surrender


JT Nero - Mountains / Forests
JT Nero and The Clouds album Caledonia caught my attention back in March of this year and I’m pleased to see the previous JT Nero album Mountains / Forests now gets a formal release on CD in the UK, there’s a tour to support the release with dates running through November and December, for the visit to these shores Jeremy Lindsay a.k.a JT Nero (guitar, vocals) teams up with Po’Girl’s Allison Russell (banjo , vocals) and Mikey August (drums, piano) both of who perform with him under the JT Nero banner on the CD, also playing and singing on the album are Dan Abu-Absi (guitars, mandolin), Ben Sidelinger (guitar, dobro, banjo), Michelle McGrath (banjo, vocals), Drew Lindsay (keys) and Christopher Merrill (electric / upright bass) .

In comparison to the excellent Caledonia this album is a pared back affair centred around the gorgeous vocal combination of Lindsay’s country-soul and Russell’s burnished tones which work their not inconsiderable charms bringing to life the songs all of which are Lindsay originals, there’s a real musical alchemy in action on this album and the contributors have worked some magic in creating a set of tunes that are a real delight to listen to start to finish – one to file under essential listening and the good news doesn’t end there as Lindsay and Russell are working on a duo album entitled Birds of Chicago Volume 1 which is planned for release in the Spring of next year, all the signs are it will be one to look out for.

- Beat Surrender


JT & Russell hit perfect pitch

Roots lovers are in for a real treat with the release of ‘Mountains/Forests' (out 17 Oct on Dishrag Records), By Madeline O'Connor - 06/10/11

It's the new collaboration between JT Nero and Alison Russell, who have long worked together with their respective bands JT And the Clouds and top Canadian group Po’ Girl.
The hottest pairing in roots music will then be hitting the high road in the UK this November and December, after a tour of the States, not with JT’s usual rock n soul band The Clouds but with the talented Russell. Also along for the ride will be Po’ Girl drummer Mikey ‘Lightning’ August.
The result of mixing Nero’s fractured country soul voice and Russell’s silver and gold tones is pure honey to the eardrums. It’s not too saccharine, but you’ll hear echoes of mountain gospel, street corner doo-wop and classic soul. Accompanied by only a guitar and banjo, it’s chillingly good. With a full band in toe, it’s a full tilt revival!
As for Russell, she can sing just about anything. With more than a hint of the speakeasy chanteuse about her, she can lend her hand and delicate phrasing to old R&B with similar effect. Plus she’s a great whistler!
For more and to hear some great sounds check out www.jtandtheclouds.com and www.myspace.com/jtnero and www.jtneroandallisonrussell.com - The Irish World


JT & Russell hit perfect pitch

Roots lovers are in for a real treat with the release of ‘Mountains/Forests' (out 17 Oct on Dishrag Records), By Madeline O'Connor - 06/10/11

It's the new collaboration between JT Nero and Alison Russell, who have long worked together with their respective bands JT And the Clouds and top Canadian group Po’ Girl.
The hottest pairing in roots music will then be hitting the high road in the UK this November and December, after a tour of the States, not with JT’s usual rock n soul band The Clouds but with the talented Russell. Also along for the ride will be Po’ Girl drummer Mikey ‘Lightning’ August.
The result of mixing Nero’s fractured country soul voice and Russell’s silver and gold tones is pure honey to the eardrums. It’s not too saccharine, but you’ll hear echoes of mountain gospel, street corner doo-wop and classic soul. Accompanied by only a guitar and banjo, it’s chillingly good. With a full band in toe, it’s a full tilt revival!
As for Russell, she can sing just about anything. With more than a hint of the speakeasy chanteuse about her, she can lend her hand and delicate phrasing to old R&B with similar effect. Plus she’s a great whistler!
For more and to hear some great sounds check out www.jtandtheclouds.com and www.myspace.com/jtnero and www.jtneroandallisonrussell.com - The Irish World


JT NERO Mountains / Forests

This solo album from the pen of Chicago based JT Nero and The Clouds frontman Jeremy 'JT' Lindsay harks back to the days of the classic singer songwriter period of the late sixties and early seventies.

Citing Mark Twain and Sam Cooke as his biggest influences, the latter is the more obvious spot with much of the material (and JT's vocal style) being not that far removed from the soul that once inspired a young Rod Stewart. JT might not have that same rasp, but there are similarities, as there are with Leo Sayer (when he wasn't being a clown), and even folk period Bolan.

On Mountains / Forests JT is more than ably supported in the vocal department by Po' Girl's Allison Russell who also contributes banjo. It's a reflective, bewitching combination with echoes of country, folk, gospel, doo-wop and classic soul recorded in 3 days in August 2010 – either as a twosome, or with the broader accompaniment of Dave Lindsay (piano and keys), Dan Abu-Absi (guitars and mandolin), Ben Sidelinger (acoustic, dobro and banjo), Michelle McGrath (guitars and vocals), Christopher Merrill (bass), and Mikey August (drums). That sounds like a huge cast, but the sound is always suitably understated.

The result is that Mountains / Forests is not an album to be used as background music. It needs to be listened to, focused upon and appreciated. That said, it lacks obvious commerciality and is therefore likely to be limited in appeal to those with an ear for the softer more accessible reaches of Americana. But if Ray LaMontagne can break through to the main stream, then there's no reason why JT Nero shouldn't do the same. ***

Review by Pete Whalley
- Get Ready To Rock


JT NERO Mountains / Forests

This solo album from the pen of Chicago based JT Nero and The Clouds frontman Jeremy 'JT' Lindsay harks back to the days of the classic singer songwriter period of the late sixties and early seventies.

Citing Mark Twain and Sam Cooke as his biggest influences, the latter is the more obvious spot with much of the material (and JT's vocal style) being not that far removed from the soul that once inspired a young Rod Stewart. JT might not have that same rasp, but there are similarities, as there are with Leo Sayer (when he wasn't being a clown), and even folk period Bolan.

On Mountains / Forests JT is more than ably supported in the vocal department by Po' Girl's Allison Russell who also contributes banjo. It's a reflective, bewitching combination with echoes of country, folk, gospel, doo-wop and classic soul recorded in 3 days in August 2010 – either as a twosome, or with the broader accompaniment of Dave Lindsay (piano and keys), Dan Abu-Absi (guitars and mandolin), Ben Sidelinger (acoustic, dobro and banjo), Michelle McGrath (guitars and vocals), Christopher Merrill (bass), and Mikey August (drums). That sounds like a huge cast, but the sound is always suitably understated.

The result is that Mountains / Forests is not an album to be used as background music. It needs to be listened to, focused upon and appreciated. That said, it lacks obvious commerciality and is therefore likely to be limited in appeal to those with an ear for the softer more accessible reaches of Americana. But if Ray LaMontagne can break through to the main stream, then there's no reason why JT Nero shouldn't do the same. ***

Review by Pete Whalley
- Get Ready To Rock


JT NERO Mountains / Forests

This solo album from the pen of Chicago based JT Nero and The Clouds frontman Jeremy 'JT' Lindsay harks back to the days of the classic singer songwriter period of the late sixties and early seventies.

Citing Mark Twain and Sam Cooke as his biggest influences, the latter is the more obvious spot with much of the material (and JT's vocal style) being not that far removed from the soul that once inspired a young Rod Stewart. JT might not have that same rasp, but there are similarities, as there are with Leo Sayer (when he wasn't being a clown), and even folk period Bolan.

On Mountains / Forests JT is more than ably supported in the vocal department by Po' Girl's Allison Russell who also contributes banjo. It's a reflective, bewitching combination with echoes of country, folk, gospel, doo-wop and classic soul recorded in 3 days in August 2010 – either as a twosome, or with the broader accompaniment of Dave Lindsay (piano and keys), Dan Abu-Absi (guitars and mandolin), Ben Sidelinger (acoustic, dobro and banjo), Michelle McGrath (guitars and vocals), Christopher Merrill (bass), and Mikey August (drums). That sounds like a huge cast, but the sound is always suitably understated.

The result is that Mountains / Forests is not an album to be used as background music. It needs to be listened to, focused upon and appreciated. That said, it lacks obvious commerciality and is therefore likely to be limited in appeal to those with an ear for the softer more accessible reaches of Americana. But if Ray LaMontagne can break through to the main stream, then there's no reason why JT Nero shouldn't do the same. ***

Review by Pete Whalley
- Get Ready To Rock


JT NERO Mountains / Forests

This solo album from the pen of Chicago based JT Nero and The Clouds frontman Jeremy 'JT' Lindsay harks back to the days of the classic singer songwriter period of the late sixties and early seventies.

Citing Mark Twain and Sam Cooke as his biggest influences, the latter is the more obvious spot with much of the material (and JT's vocal style) being not that far removed from the soul that once inspired a young Rod Stewart. JT might not have that same rasp, but there are similarities, as there are with Leo Sayer (when he wasn't being a clown), and even folk period Bolan.

On Mountains / Forests JT is more than ably supported in the vocal department by Po' Girl's Allison Russell who also contributes banjo. It's a reflective, bewitching combination with echoes of country, folk, gospel, doo-wop and classic soul recorded in 3 days in August 2010 – either as a twosome, or with the broader accompaniment of Dave Lindsay (piano and keys), Dan Abu-Absi (guitars and mandolin), Ben Sidelinger (acoustic, dobro and banjo), Michelle McGrath (guitars and vocals), Christopher Merrill (bass), and Mikey August (drums). That sounds like a huge cast, but the sound is always suitably understated.

The result is that Mountains / Forests is not an album to be used as background music. It needs to be listened to, focused upon and appreciated. That said, it lacks obvious commerciality and is therefore likely to be limited in appeal to those with an ear for the softer more accessible reaches of Americana. But if Ray LaMontagne can break through to the main stream, then there's no reason why JT Nero shouldn't do the same. ***

Review by Pete Whalley
- Get Ready To Rock


J T Nero

Mountains / Forests

added: 16 Oct 2011 // release date: 17 Oct 2011 // label: Dishrag
reviewer: Andy Snipper



Why this is going out as a JT Nero album when the wonderful voice of Alison Russell (Po Girl) is an absolutely integral part of the music is beyond me. On the other hand what we get here is simply wonderful no matter who it is credited to.

10 beautiful songs about the state of the world played with a distractingly simple quality and two perfectly aligned voices. The music seems to cross from Roots Americana into the most delicious Soul & R&B seamlessly and the lyrics stand listening to time and again – I cannot remember an album that has been so intriguing this year.

The title track sums the two of them up perfectly with a gentle banjo clucking away behind Russell’s hearty vocal but when she breathes “There are mountains, there are forests, there are tiny electric sea-horses” a few hairs stand rigid on the back of your neck.

But then the hairs stay up through the next nine gems as the richness of the vocals and the delicious simplicity of the playing closes the soundstage so that you feel that the songs are aimed straight at you and no other.

No track stands out – they all bear repeated listening – but ‘Grey Ghost’ and ‘Mt Salvador What’s Happening’ seem to have been replayed most often.

This is one album that seems to grow better through repetition and I’m enjoying it more every time – might just be one of the top ten Americana albums this year or even top 5.


- Music-News.com


J T Nero

Mountains / Forests

added: 16 Oct 2011 // release date: 17 Oct 2011 // label: Dishrag
reviewer: Andy Snipper



Why this is going out as a JT Nero album when the wonderful voice of Alison Russell (Po Girl) is an absolutely integral part of the music is beyond me. On the other hand what we get here is simply wonderful no matter who it is credited to.

10 beautiful songs about the state of the world played with a distractingly simple quality and two perfectly aligned voices. The music seems to cross from Roots Americana into the most delicious Soul & R&B seamlessly and the lyrics stand listening to time and again – I cannot remember an album that has been so intriguing this year.

The title track sums the two of them up perfectly with a gentle banjo clucking away behind Russell’s hearty vocal but when she breathes “There are mountains, there are forests, there are tiny electric sea-horses” a few hairs stand rigid on the back of your neck.

But then the hairs stay up through the next nine gems as the richness of the vocals and the delicious simplicity of the playing closes the soundstage so that you feel that the songs are aimed straight at you and no other.

No track stands out – they all bear repeated listening – but ‘Grey Ghost’ and ‘Mt Salvador What’s Happening’ seem to have been replayed most often.

This is one album that seems to grow better through repetition and I’m enjoying it more every time – might just be one of the top ten Americana albums this year or even top 5.


- Music-News.com


J T Nero

Mountains / Forests

added: 16 Oct 2011 // release date: 17 Oct 2011 // label: Dishrag
reviewer: Andy Snipper



Why this is going out as a JT Nero album when the wonderful voice of Alison Russell (Po Girl) is an absolutely integral part of the music is beyond me. On the other hand what we get here is simply wonderful no matter who it is credited to.

10 beautiful songs about the state of the world played with a distractingly simple quality and two perfectly aligned voices. The music seems to cross from Roots Americana into the most delicious Soul & R&B seamlessly and the lyrics stand listening to time and again – I cannot remember an album that has been so intriguing this year.

The title track sums the two of them up perfectly with a gentle banjo clucking away behind Russell’s hearty vocal but when she breathes “There are mountains, there are forests, there are tiny electric sea-horses” a few hairs stand rigid on the back of your neck.

But then the hairs stay up through the next nine gems as the richness of the vocals and the delicious simplicity of the playing closes the soundstage so that you feel that the songs are aimed straight at you and no other.

No track stands out – they all bear repeated listening – but ‘Grey Ghost’ and ‘Mt Salvador What’s Happening’ seem to have been replayed most often.

This is one album that seems to grow better through repetition and I’m enjoying it more every time – might just be one of the top ten Americana albums this year or even top 5.


- Music-News.com


J T Nero

Mountains / Forests

added: 16 Oct 2011 // release date: 17 Oct 2011 // label: Dishrag
reviewer: Andy Snipper



Why this is going out as a JT Nero album when the wonderful voice of Alison Russell (Po Girl) is an absolutely integral part of the music is beyond me. On the other hand what we get here is simply wonderful no matter who it is credited to.

10 beautiful songs about the state of the world played with a distractingly simple quality and two perfectly aligned voices. The music seems to cross from Roots Americana into the most delicious Soul & R&B seamlessly and the lyrics stand listening to time and again – I cannot remember an album that has been so intriguing this year.

The title track sums the two of them up perfectly with a gentle banjo clucking away behind Russell’s hearty vocal but when she breathes “There are mountains, there are forests, there are tiny electric sea-horses” a few hairs stand rigid on the back of your neck.

But then the hairs stay up through the next nine gems as the richness of the vocals and the delicious simplicity of the playing closes the soundstage so that you feel that the songs are aimed straight at you and no other.

No track stands out – they all bear repeated listening – but ‘Grey Ghost’ and ‘Mt Salvador What’s Happening’ seem to have been replayed most often.

This is one album that seems to grow better through repetition and I’m enjoying it more every time – might just be one of the top ten Americana albums this year or even top 5.


- Music-News.com


JT Nero

Written by Will Bray | 26 September 2011

Hop-scotching across the pond from Chicago at least once a year is becoming a very regular occurrence for Mr. Nero & co and is making his face extremely familiar with the Americana circuit in the U.K. Whether it’s JT Nero solo or with The Clouds (the superb collection of musicians which formulate JT’s band) he’s becoming a national fixture. 2010’s Americana-UK Writers Top 10 saw JT’s album ‘Caledonia’ sneak into the number nine slot, some might argue that it wasn’t high enough but these are the joys of the annual Top 10 arguments… Erm, discussions. There is a unique fusion of gospel, folk, country and rock ‘n’ roll in JT’s style covering a very broad spectrum of the Americana rainbow which keeps his records so vibrant. JT brings a certain smoothness to his music and delivers it with kindness, not in an easy listening fashion but with a huge amount of soul and roots, it’s cool and slick. JT is about to release his new solo record, ‘Mountains/Forests’ (well… We say solo) and this time we got the chance to sit him down for a chat.



How would you describe your musical style?
Well, I hope this doesn't feel like too much of a cop out answer but we try to "describe" it as little as possible. I mean we borrow from a lot of the same mother lode as other bands that find themselves under the big Americana umbrella: Rock ‘n’ roll, soul, gospel, country, folk. But we consciously try not to think about it too much, tends to make it more of an intellectual thing, which we try to avoid. To use a not very compelling analogy, we prefer to think of ourselves as mad chefs working without a recipe, just throwing in dashes of this, pinches of that, with lots of tasting, until it tastes like something good. If we like the taste we make the leap of thinking other people will like the taste too.

You almost alternate records between solo and with a band, why is that?
Well, the solo verses group distinction is actually a little false. All of the Clouds contributed to Mountains/Forests, as did Allison Russell and Ben Sidelinger from Po' Girl and Michelle McGrath, a great picker and singer who was my first musical partner. She's the other wonderful female vocal on the record harmonizing with Alli.

Did you have a musical childhood?
If you count only listening to rap while pretending to hate my parents motown and country records - and serving as a listless 4th chair trombonist in elementary school - as a musical childhood. Yes.

‘Mountains/Forests’ is your latest U.K release, tell us about that?
Recorded live in a cabin on Washington Island, Wisconsin in 3 days with those ridiculously talented people I mentioned before, who happen to be my best friends in the world. In short, the most fun I've ever had.

Your last record ‘Caledonia’ had some great accolades, any you’re fond of?
We love all accolades, with a great and pure love, but we tend to prefer the really long winded ones.

Why do you think the Brits have latched onto your music?
Well, the Brits tend to know their American roots music often better than their American cousins. Beyond that I don't suppose it pays to think too much about why folks do or don't like you. We sure do appreciate it though.

When are you next in the U.K?
Alli and I will be in the UK from Nov 23rd to Dec 6. We will most likely have a Cloud or two accompanying us.

Is it easy for you to find inspiration when song writing?
It is. I, like most people, am forming impressions based on sensory data all the time. I am just self-absorbed enough to think that all the things that flit through my mind must be written down and recorded, for THE BETTERMENT OF HUMANKIND!

What is the whole recording process like for you?
Well it's gotten a lot easier. We work with a great producer, Zach Goheen, who tries to set up a relaxed atmosphere for us in the studio. We treat them as really well recorded live performances, so it's all about catching a feeling and not interfering with that too much.

What are the differences between music cultures in the U.S to the U.K?
I am not an expert on this, but one thing I have noticed is that radio still matters in the UK. There are personality driven shows on the BBC that still seem to have listeners across the country. That disappeared in the US a long time ago.

Why do you think that Americana is playing such a big part in the U.K?
Hmmm, well, I think the myth of the hard living bluesman or wandering country poet is still alive and well in the imagination of your country. Who knows why but thank god.

Any current artists you are big on at the moment?
Well you are catching me at the end of my summer- long obsession with the new Gillian Welch and David Rawlings record. They are just doing what they've always done, as good or better than ever. Inspiring. Love anything that Dan Auerbach does, solo or Black Keys.

Top three records of all time and why?
Ah man! Ok here goes, without think - Americana UK


JT Nero

Written by Will Bray | 26 September 2011

Hop-scotching across the pond from Chicago at least once a year is becoming a very regular occurrence for Mr. Nero & co and is making his face extremely familiar with the Americana circuit in the U.K. Whether it’s JT Nero solo or with The Clouds (the superb collection of musicians which formulate JT’s band) he’s becoming a national fixture. 2010’s Americana-UK Writers Top 10 saw JT’s album ‘Caledonia’ sneak into the number nine slot, some might argue that it wasn’t high enough but these are the joys of the annual Top 10 arguments… Erm, discussions. There is a unique fusion of gospel, folk, country and rock ‘n’ roll in JT’s style covering a very broad spectrum of the Americana rainbow which keeps his records so vibrant. JT brings a certain smoothness to his music and delivers it with kindness, not in an easy listening fashion but with a huge amount of soul and roots, it’s cool and slick. JT is about to release his new solo record, ‘Mountains/Forests’ (well… We say solo) and this time we got the chance to sit him down for a chat.



How would you describe your musical style?
Well, I hope this doesn't feel like too much of a cop out answer but we try to "describe" it as little as possible. I mean we borrow from a lot of the same mother lode as other bands that find themselves under the big Americana umbrella: Rock ‘n’ roll, soul, gospel, country, folk. But we consciously try not to think about it too much, tends to make it more of an intellectual thing, which we try to avoid. To use a not very compelling analogy, we prefer to think of ourselves as mad chefs working without a recipe, just throwing in dashes of this, pinches of that, with lots of tasting, until it tastes like something good. If we like the taste we make the leap of thinking other people will like the taste too.

You almost alternate records between solo and with a band, why is that?
Well, the solo verses group distinction is actually a little false. All of the Clouds contributed to Mountains/Forests, as did Allison Russell and Ben Sidelinger from Po' Girl and Michelle McGrath, a great picker and singer who was my first musical partner. She's the other wonderful female vocal on the record harmonizing with Alli.

Did you have a musical childhood?
If you count only listening to rap while pretending to hate my parents motown and country records - and serving as a listless 4th chair trombonist in elementary school - as a musical childhood. Yes.

‘Mountains/Forests’ is your latest U.K release, tell us about that?
Recorded live in a cabin on Washington Island, Wisconsin in 3 days with those ridiculously talented people I mentioned before, who happen to be my best friends in the world. In short, the most fun I've ever had.

Your last record ‘Caledonia’ had some great accolades, any you’re fond of?
We love all accolades, with a great and pure love, but we tend to prefer the really long winded ones.

Why do you think the Brits have latched onto your music?
Well, the Brits tend to know their American roots music often better than their American cousins. Beyond that I don't suppose it pays to think too much about why folks do or don't like you. We sure do appreciate it though.

When are you next in the U.K?
Alli and I will be in the UK from Nov 23rd to Dec 6. We will most likely have a Cloud or two accompanying us.

Is it easy for you to find inspiration when song writing?
It is. I, like most people, am forming impressions based on sensory data all the time. I am just self-absorbed enough to think that all the things that flit through my mind must be written down and recorded, for THE BETTERMENT OF HUMANKIND!

What is the whole recording process like for you?
Well it's gotten a lot easier. We work with a great producer, Zach Goheen, who tries to set up a relaxed atmosphere for us in the studio. We treat them as really well recorded live performances, so it's all about catching a feeling and not interfering with that too much.

What are the differences between music cultures in the U.S to the U.K?
I am not an expert on this, but one thing I have noticed is that radio still matters in the UK. There are personality driven shows on the BBC that still seem to have listeners across the country. That disappeared in the US a long time ago.

Why do you think that Americana is playing such a big part in the U.K?
Hmmm, well, I think the myth of the hard living bluesman or wandering country poet is still alive and well in the imagination of your country. Who knows why but thank god.

Any current artists you are big on at the moment?
Well you are catching me at the end of my summer- long obsession with the new Gillian Welch and David Rawlings record. They are just doing what they've always done, as good or better than ever. Inspiring. Love anything that Dan Auerbach does, solo or Black Keys.

Top three records of all time and why?
Ah man! Ok here goes, without think - Americana UK


JT Nero

Written by Will Bray | 26 September 2011

Hop-scotching across the pond from Chicago at least once a year is becoming a very regular occurrence for Mr. Nero & co and is making his face extremely familiar with the Americana circuit in the U.K. Whether it’s JT Nero solo or with The Clouds (the superb collection of musicians which formulate JT’s band) he’s becoming a national fixture. 2010’s Americana-UK Writers Top 10 saw JT’s album ‘Caledonia’ sneak into the number nine slot, some might argue that it wasn’t high enough but these are the joys of the annual Top 10 arguments… Erm, discussions. There is a unique fusion of gospel, folk, country and rock ‘n’ roll in JT’s style covering a very broad spectrum of the Americana rainbow which keeps his records so vibrant. JT brings a certain smoothness to his music and delivers it with kindness, not in an easy listening fashion but with a huge amount of soul and roots, it’s cool and slick. JT is about to release his new solo record, ‘Mountains/Forests’ (well… We say solo) and this time we got the chance to sit him down for a chat.



How would you describe your musical style?
Well, I hope this doesn't feel like too much of a cop out answer but we try to "describe" it as little as possible. I mean we borrow from a lot of the same mother lode as other bands that find themselves under the big Americana umbrella: Rock ‘n’ roll, soul, gospel, country, folk. But we consciously try not to think about it too much, tends to make it more of an intellectual thing, which we try to avoid. To use a not very compelling analogy, we prefer to think of ourselves as mad chefs working without a recipe, just throwing in dashes of this, pinches of that, with lots of tasting, until it tastes like something good. If we like the taste we make the leap of thinking other people will like the taste too.

You almost alternate records between solo and with a band, why is that?
Well, the solo verses group distinction is actually a little false. All of the Clouds contributed to Mountains/Forests, as did Allison Russell and Ben Sidelinger from Po' Girl and Michelle McGrath, a great picker and singer who was my first musical partner. She's the other wonderful female vocal on the record harmonizing with Alli.

Did you have a musical childhood?
If you count only listening to rap while pretending to hate my parents motown and country records - and serving as a listless 4th chair trombonist in elementary school - as a musical childhood. Yes.

‘Mountains/Forests’ is your latest U.K release, tell us about that?
Recorded live in a cabin on Washington Island, Wisconsin in 3 days with those ridiculously talented people I mentioned before, who happen to be my best friends in the world. In short, the most fun I've ever had.

Your last record ‘Caledonia’ had some great accolades, any you’re fond of?
We love all accolades, with a great and pure love, but we tend to prefer the really long winded ones.

Why do you think the Brits have latched onto your music?
Well, the Brits tend to know their American roots music often better than their American cousins. Beyond that I don't suppose it pays to think too much about why folks do or don't like you. We sure do appreciate it though.

When are you next in the U.K?
Alli and I will be in the UK from Nov 23rd to Dec 6. We will most likely have a Cloud or two accompanying us.

Is it easy for you to find inspiration when song writing?
It is. I, like most people, am forming impressions based on sensory data all the time. I am just self-absorbed enough to think that all the things that flit through my mind must be written down and recorded, for THE BETTERMENT OF HUMANKIND!

What is the whole recording process like for you?
Well it's gotten a lot easier. We work with a great producer, Zach Goheen, who tries to set up a relaxed atmosphere for us in the studio. We treat them as really well recorded live performances, so it's all about catching a feeling and not interfering with that too much.

What are the differences between music cultures in the U.S to the U.K?
I am not an expert on this, but one thing I have noticed is that radio still matters in the UK. There are personality driven shows on the BBC that still seem to have listeners across the country. That disappeared in the US a long time ago.

Why do you think that Americana is playing such a big part in the U.K?
Hmmm, well, I think the myth of the hard living bluesman or wandering country poet is still alive and well in the imagination of your country. Who knows why but thank god.

Any current artists you are big on at the moment?
Well you are catching me at the end of my summer- long obsession with the new Gillian Welch and David Rawlings record. They are just doing what they've always done, as good or better than ever. Inspiring. Love anything that Dan Auerbach does, solo or Black Keys.

Top three records of all time and why?
Ah man! Ok here goes, without think - Americana UK


JT Nero

Written by Will Bray | 26 September 2011

Hop-scotching across the pond from Chicago at least once a year is becoming a very regular occurrence for Mr. Nero & co and is making his face extremely familiar with the Americana circuit in the U.K. Whether it’s JT Nero solo or with The Clouds (the superb collection of musicians which formulate JT’s band) he’s becoming a national fixture. 2010’s Americana-UK Writers Top 10 saw JT’s album ‘Caledonia’ sneak into the number nine slot, some might argue that it wasn’t high enough but these are the joys of the annual Top 10 arguments… Erm, discussions. There is a unique fusion of gospel, folk, country and rock ‘n’ roll in JT’s style covering a very broad spectrum of the Americana rainbow which keeps his records so vibrant. JT brings a certain smoothness to his music and delivers it with kindness, not in an easy listening fashion but with a huge amount of soul and roots, it’s cool and slick. JT is about to release his new solo record, ‘Mountains/Forests’ (well… We say solo) and this time we got the chance to sit him down for a chat.



How would you describe your musical style?
Well, I hope this doesn't feel like too much of a cop out answer but we try to "describe" it as little as possible. I mean we borrow from a lot of the same mother lode as other bands that find themselves under the big Americana umbrella: Rock ‘n’ roll, soul, gospel, country, folk. But we consciously try not to think about it too much, tends to make it more of an intellectual thing, which we try to avoid. To use a not very compelling analogy, we prefer to think of ourselves as mad chefs working without a recipe, just throwing in dashes of this, pinches of that, with lots of tasting, until it tastes like something good. If we like the taste we make the leap of thinking other people will like the taste too.

You almost alternate records between solo and with a band, why is that?
Well, the solo verses group distinction is actually a little false. All of the Clouds contributed to Mountains/Forests, as did Allison Russell and Ben Sidelinger from Po' Girl and Michelle McGrath, a great picker and singer who was my first musical partner. She's the other wonderful female vocal on the record harmonizing with Alli.

Did you have a musical childhood?
If you count only listening to rap while pretending to hate my parents motown and country records - and serving as a listless 4th chair trombonist in elementary school - as a musical childhood. Yes.

‘Mountains/Forests’ is your latest U.K release, tell us about that?
Recorded live in a cabin on Washington Island, Wisconsin in 3 days with those ridiculously talented people I mentioned before, who happen to be my best friends in the world. In short, the most fun I've ever had.

Your last record ‘Caledonia’ had some great accolades, any you’re fond of?
We love all accolades, with a great and pure love, but we tend to prefer the really long winded ones.

Why do you think the Brits have latched onto your music?
Well, the Brits tend to know their American roots music often better than their American cousins. Beyond that I don't suppose it pays to think too much about why folks do or don't like you. We sure do appreciate it though.

When are you next in the U.K?
Alli and I will be in the UK from Nov 23rd to Dec 6. We will most likely have a Cloud or two accompanying us.

Is it easy for you to find inspiration when song writing?
It is. I, like most people, am forming impressions based on sensory data all the time. I am just self-absorbed enough to think that all the things that flit through my mind must be written down and recorded, for THE BETTERMENT OF HUMANKIND!

What is the whole recording process like for you?
Well it's gotten a lot easier. We work with a great producer, Zach Goheen, who tries to set up a relaxed atmosphere for us in the studio. We treat them as really well recorded live performances, so it's all about catching a feeling and not interfering with that too much.

What are the differences between music cultures in the U.S to the U.K?
I am not an expert on this, but one thing I have noticed is that radio still matters in the UK. There are personality driven shows on the BBC that still seem to have listeners across the country. That disappeared in the US a long time ago.

Why do you think that Americana is playing such a big part in the U.K?
Hmmm, well, I think the myth of the hard living bluesman or wandering country poet is still alive and well in the imagination of your country. Who knows why but thank god.

Any current artists you are big on at the moment?
Well you are catching me at the end of my summer- long obsession with the new Gillian Welch and David Rawlings record. They are just doing what they've always done, as good or better than ever. Inspiring. Love anything that Dan Auerbach does, solo or Black Keys.

Top three records of all time and why?
Ah man! Ok here goes, without think - Americana UK


JT Nero
Album:Mountains/Forests
Label:Dishrag
Website: http://www.jtandtheclouds.com
Personally I think it was rather ungentlemanly for JT Nero not to have name checked Po' Girl's, Allison Russell, on the front cover, such is her contribution to this album, but this is undisputedly a really really top example of songwriting and performing in the Americana genre. The songs are strong, the performances have an emotional connection to the material. JT's backing band, The Clouds, provide additional musicians allowing the sound to fill the requirements of the track. Both singing solo, harmonising or as a duo, you can feel the connections that move an album into special.
- Fatea Magazine


JT Nero "Mountains/Forests"
Dishrag Records, 2011
Reviewers Rating

10
For those of you who have had misfortune not to have come across JT (that’s Jeremy Thomas) Lindsay before a short explanation might be required. His ‘other’ outfit JT and the Clouds made the Americana-Uk Top Ten of 2010, he comes out of The Windy City and he is an utterly exceptional talent.
In this Nero guise (although some of the Clouds make an appearance) its all about his collaboration with Allison Russell (of Po’Girl fame) and old muse Michelle McGrath. The combination of JT’s sweetly fractured blue eyed soul voice and that of Russell and McGrath is a thing of sheer beauty, completely joyful for your ears to behold. This is no manufactured thing – they recorded it in three or four days in a cabin in Wisconsin so what you are hearing is the real thing, in the rough and raw. Its real hair on the back of the neck standing up stuff. The music is sparse – mostly acoustic with occasional full band stuff and because of this throughout the duration of the record you find yourself being lulled into a sort of dream state, seduced by the heavenly vocal performances but grounded by the instrumentation.

In style terms we are talking folk, country, soul, doo wop, rock and roll, blues...take your pick really...and frequently combinations of some or all in the space of single songs. Speaking of dreams you’ll want to pay close attention to JT’s lyrics. An academic might classify the words as a sort of Theatre of the Absurd exploration of word play, a rank and file music buff might just describe them as absolute bat-shit. No matter – in the context of the whole package they make perfect sense – even the ‘tiny electric seahorses’ and the call to ‘give us ice cream momma – we’re dying’. Give it a listen and make your own mind (or more likely ‘minds’) up.

If you need to know more about JT head over to our interviews page where the man himself tells it like it is. Of course he’s far too modest to say himself so I’ll just fill you in on the fact that this is more or less perfect Americana. You won’t be disappointed. - Americana UK


Discography

Mountains/Forests - Indie 2011
Birds of Chicago--- Release Date - Nov 2012
Birds of Chicago Live From Space to be released Dec 2013/Jan 2014

Photos

Bio

Birds of Chicago is a collective based around JT Nero and Allison Russell. Whether touring as 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 Neros respective bands, Po' Girl (Vancouver, BC) and JT and the Clouds (Chicago, IL), have collaborated extensively, but in 2011s 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, released to great reviews on Nov 1st, 2012.

Neros fractured country-soul voice wrapped in Russells silver and gold tones is a fine thing. Not too perfect, not at all saccharine, youll hear echoes of mountain gospel, street corner doo-wop, classic soul. Accompanied by just a banjo and a guitar, its chilling. Fired by a full band, its 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.

Management: Leslie Merical lesliemerical@me.com

Booking Agent
US- Phil Einsohn phil@sweetwinegroup.com
http://sweetwinegroup.com/
CANADA- Todd Jordan - todd@paquinentertainment.com
UK-"Grapevine Music" bob@grapevinemusicagency.co.uk, www.grapevinemusicagency.co.uk/
The Netherlands- "ldmbookings" sandra@ldmbookings, www.ldmbookings.nl

Press Contact
Noth America: Larry Meyer: lmeyer@mpdwlaw.com
UK- GPromo, Geraint Jones gpromo@btinternet.com, Netherlands- Lucky Dice Music, "Sandra Zuidema" sandra@luckydice.nl,www.luckydice.nl

Band Members