Birds of Chicago
Birds of Chicago, “This year’s biggest roots surprise” says L.A. Times, is a collective built around husband and wife duo JT Nero (Chicago, IL) and Allison Russell (Montreal, QC). Since forming in 2012, they’ve toured internationally 10+ months of the year.
Their brand of rock and roll poetry can be a little hard to categorize, for people that insist on categorizing… their voices are undoubtedly the centerpiece – Nero’s fractured country soul croon is wrapped in Russell’s silver and gold tones for a harmony blend that is like nothing else in music today. Fired by the band it’s a full tilt revival – streamlined poems, deep grooves, sharp hooks and joyful singing straight from the gut.
Birds of Chicago’s self-titled debut album, released at the beginning of 2013, was a critics’ darling – with glowing praise rolling in from both sides of the Atlantic for Nero and Russell’s evocative poetry and simmering vocals. The decision to put their respective bands (JT’s “JT & The Clouds” & Allison’s “Po’ Girl”) on hiatus and tour together was a pivotal move, applauded by their fans, and growing numbers of new listeners.
After a year of hard touring, and much buzzed about appearances at summer festivals (Strawberry, High Sierra, Kerrville, Hillside, Delfest, Vancouver Island among others) the band decided to record a live album in front of their hometown fans. The result “Live from Space,” released January 2014, captures this rising band in absolute top form. By turns raw, raucous, whispered and hushed, it revealed the band’s full dynamic range. Americana UK says, “‘Live From SPACE’ leaves no genre unaccounted for, no touchstone unturned. A Cappella spiritual, soul, acoustic balladry, driving country rock – it’s all there. And that’s only the first four tracks.”
Russell and Nero are most at home on the road, zigzagging across North America and Europe in their family band van, with their new baby daughter, Ida Maeve, in tow. Coming soon to some festival, theater, pub, VFW hall, roller rink or living room near you – dovetailing their voices in songs of hope, despair, love…. and electric seahorses. It’s familiar and strange stuff – the everyday and the magical – light and shadow, shadow and light.
Smokey & the Mirror
“The thing I love most about this band and the evening with them is not only the powerfully beautiful voice of bass player, Bernice Hembree, or the well-written songs of Bryan Hembree, sung with his rustic, true American voice – it’s the energy they bring on stage and to the audience! You can tell when they are performing; they truly treasure what they do. They feed off each other to the point it’s sometimes hard to tell where the guitar stops and the bass starts!” – Chris Roberts, Red Arm Music
“This past Friday, I was lucky enough to see Elephant Revival with special guests, Smokey & The Mirror. And what a night it was! I’ve seen numerous husband and wife duos in my time, especially in the folk scene. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this duo. Bernice and Bryan Hembree have so much chemistry and musical talent it’s ridiculous. It’s the perfect complement of a female and male vocal. She has the soothing, higher pitched voice and his, is that of a weary traveler. His vocals really nail that Americana, folky, “I’ve been traveling this long road for a while” style voice. Their set was solid and just really, really good!” – Adam Robinson, Honest Music Review