(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – Birds of Chicago, the husband-and-wife roots-music collective that garnered many new fans with their compelling performance at last September’s FreshGrass Festival, return to Club B10 at MASS MoCA on Saturday, January 23, at 8pm, when they will offer a preview of their upcoming album, “Real Midnight,” due for release on February 19.
Birds of Chicago’s music seamlessly spans genres, drawing on the soulful balladry of the gospel tradition while simultaneously embracing deep grooves of country and soul. At times the focus is on the scaled-back pairing of Nero and Russell, and at other points the band swells to a full cast of musicians, including former members of JT & the Clouds and singer-picker Michelle McGrath. At the heart of the genre-defying sound remain Nero and Russell’s powerful vocals.
Next week, Birds of Chicago will play for a national audience on NPR’s “World Cafe Live” program. But before that, the group takes a victory lap in Club B10 after blowing minds at this September’s FreshGrass Festival. Husband-wife duo JT Nero and Allison Russell anchor this sprawling collective of soul-inflected, groove-based Americana from the Midwest.
Birds of Chicago was born in 2012 when JT Nero began writing for his vocal star-muse, Allison Russell. Both were accomplished singer-songwriters with projects of their own, Nero with JT and the Clouds and Russell with the acclaimed Canadian roots outfit Po’ Girl. Together they found an unmistakable chemistry, both on- and offstage. Nero had found the perfect voice for his rock and roll psalms; Russell moved from being a primary songwriter to an interpreter, blessed with simmering restraint in a world awash in vocal gymnastics and over-emoting.
On “Real Midnight,” Birds of Chicago alternate moody rock swagger with the ghostliest of soundscapes. Produced by Joe Henry, a man who’s expert blending of light and shadow is well known, the album is a melancholy – but never shoegazing – suite, full of wayward, joyful, lonesome voices raised up against the night.
Birds of Chicago have developed a fervent following, touring 200 nights a year since their formation in late 2012. For these Birds, singing for a room full of new people, hearts wide open, keeps off the cold and chases off the shadows.
Birds of Chicago soars into MASS MoCA’s Club B10 on Saturday, January 23, at 8pm. Dinner is available from Lickety Split before and during the show. A full bar serves Berkshire Brewing Company beers and Berkshire Mountain Distillery spirits. Tickets are $16 in advance, $10 for students, $22 day of, and $28 preferred. Tickets for all events are available through the MASS MoCA box office located on Marshall Street in North Adams, open 11am to 5pm every day except Tuesdays through spring 2016. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 x1 during box office hours or purchased online at MASS MoCA. All events are held rain or shine.