Contributed photo
                                Birds of Chicago play Sept. 1 in Friday Harbor.

Contributed photo Birds of Chicago play Sept. 1 in Friday Harbor.

Folk-rock duo with gospel flare comes to San Juan Community Theatre

  • Tue Aug 21st, 2018 1:30am
  • Life

Submitted by Birds of Chicago

Birds of Chicago have been riding a swell of good mojo in the Americana world since their inception in late 2012. With their new album, “Love in Wartime,” they are set to both confirm that roots world buzz, and break on through to a wider audience across the world.

The band performs at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 1 at the San Juan Community Theatre on San Juan. Tickets are $25 for adults; $15 for those under 25 and $5 student rush, at the door only.

Recorded in Chicago against a backdrop of bewilderment, deep-divide and dread, “Love in Wartime” is a rock and roll suite with a cinematic sweep. Co-produced by Nero and Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars), it evokes epic efforts of the 60s and 70s, with love as the undeniable through-line. As Russell puts it, “Any act of love is an act of bravery. These songs are snapshots of covenants, big and small, of trust and understanding. We want to give people some good news, and we want them to be able to dance when they hear it.”

When Birds of Chicago released its last album in 2016, critics scrambled to find the right terminology to describe the deep lyricism, gut-punch singing and fevered musicality. “Secular gospel” was one phrase that caught some traction. That fervor is evident in “Love and Wartime” as well.

“Nero and Russell play folk-rock with impressionistic flourishes and gospel warmth, lent unexpected extravagance by Russell’s singing,” states National Public Radio.

Built around the chemistry and fire between Russell and Nero, the band has included a core band of empathetic assassins since it took to the road full time in 2013. Nero found himself a transcendent vocal muse in Russell, who is a powerful writer in her own right, and the band honed its chops on the road, playing 200 shows a year between 2013-17. All that shaping and sharpening, over so many miles, led them back to Chicago’s Electrical Audio in January of 2017, to begin recording. The first day in the studio was inauguration day, and they didn’t need any more motivation than that to do what they came to do.

The Birds attract a mix of indy rockers, jam-kids and folkies to their gigs, which alternate between moments of hushed attention and wild, rock and soul abandon.

“A good show can send you back out into the night feeling, for at least a little while, that everything isn’t broken,” said Nero.

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