Birds of Chicago

20130418-112907.jpgTop Americana band Birds of Chicago are looking forward to exploring their Celtic heritage when they play their first tour of Ireland this month.

The collective, based around JT Nero and Allison Russell, arrive on April 24, playing gigs in Dublin and Tipperary before coming to the Ulster Museum on April 26.

Speaking just before arriving on Irish shores, JT explained that the ten day tour of Ireland was a homecoming of sorts as both he and Alli have Celtic roots.

“Alli grew up in Canada and has a Scottish grandmother and I am from Southside Chicago Irish stock, so we were both exposed to traditional folk music from an early age and grew up with a love of the music.”

Onstage the band can be anything from JT and Alli on their own to up to seven members, but for the ten day Irish tour they will play as a quartet with the pair backed by drums and lead guitar.

Their hectic concert tour of North America and Europe has been receiving great plaudits and their first album was released in January to critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic.

The eponymously titled ‘Birds of Chicago’ features one of the best songs of the year, ‘Trampoline’ an infectiously, upbeat track that gets better every time you play it.

It was recently Album of the Week on RTE Radio One and tracks have been played on the Ralph McClean and Cherry McIlwaine shows on BBC Radio Ulster.

Alli and her Canadian band Po’ Girl have played some gigs in Ireland, including the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival in 2007 and 2009, the Black Box in 2010 and the Kilkenny Rhythm and Roots Festival, so she is well known to fans of roots music.

Birds of Chicago’s own sound is difficult to categorise. There are so many influences infusing their sweet melodies and heavenly harmonies, from folk, country, gospel, soul, jazz’nblues and cajun– many of the styles and traditions that make the US such a fertile place for musicians.

JT added: “Our music has always felt pretty natural. Both my parents were into music and had big soul and blues record collections and my mother had a really great country music collection, so I tended to see a connection between these different genres. It seemed they were cut from the same cloth.

“It was the same for Alli. When she was small she was mesmerised by an album of random 1920’s female blues singers, such as Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith. She also played in Irish bands so she could see the connections between the two.”

This ability to weave different musical genres into a coherent musical pattern is reminiscent of our very own Van Morrison, who seamlessly combines soul, jazz, blues and country to create his own unique sound.

So, it is no surprise to learn that Van is one of JT’s heroes: “I love Van’s music so it will be especially exciting to be playing in his home city. People in Belfast are really into their music so it is going to be a special night at the Ulster Museum,” he said.

Birds of Chicago play the Ulster Museum on Friday, April 26 at 8pm. Tickets are £10/£12 and can be booked through or by calling the bookstore at 02890 319607 or through the Real Music Club on

Post Author: Belfast Times

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