Birds of Chicago
Love in Wartime
Signature Sounds Recordings
Birds of Chicago – husband and wife Alison Russell (formerly of Po’ Girl) and JT Nero – have been honing their “secular gospel” approach since 2012, and their third studio release, Love in Wartime continues the pair’s funky, somewhat indescribable sound, following up the brilliant second album from 2016, Real Midnight. Starting off with “Intro: Now/Sunlight” which features Russell on banjo and some tuneful humming, “Never Go Back” follows with a Talking Heads funk guitar line and vocals from Nero that combines in a near-perfect pop song. The moving title cut is next – “Do you ever wonder how many stars died just so we could be”. Backing vocals from Kelly Hogan and Nora O’Connor provide atmospheric ambiance, and when Russell joins in, it’s stupendous.
Produced by North Mississippi All-Star Luther Dickinson and Nero, this is a joyous summertime record (despite being recorded in Chicago in January of 2017, which I assume is about as far from summer as possible). The 11 cuts combine stirring vocals, playful backing and a breezy songwriting style to create a magic that floats aurally like a cool wind on a hot night. They can go from the whispered beauty of “Lodestar” to a Joan Armatrading-ish workout on “Roll Away”. “Baton Rouge” takes a look at the battle on the streets of the south – “We shook our heads in disbelief/As if there’s no blood in our streets/As if there’s none of that old poison/Hot in our veins, deep in our very souls”. Moving indeed.
Are they Americana? Sometimes. Are they funky? Oh yes. No matter what you call them, every spin of Love in Wartime brings new delights, and an eager desire to hear more from this winning pair of lovebirds. Sing!