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Another Level of Vulnerability: Janiva Magness, September 11 at the Redstone Room PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Mike Schulz   
Thursday, 04 September 2014 06:00

Janiva MagnessVocalist Janiva Magness is a four-time recipient of the Blues Music Award for “Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year” and the 2009 winner of the “B.B. King Entertainer of the Year” citation, and an overview of the artist’s biography suggests that her life story could be its own blues song. But it’s really more like its own blues album, liner notes included.

 
Happy Bummers: Ruby the RabbitFoot, September 7 at Rozz-Tox PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 03 September 2014 10:12

Given her foibles, Ruby Kendrick’s decision to give up visual art for music seems like a brambled path.

In a phone interview promoting her September 7 performance at Rozz-Tox (under her band name Ruby the RabbitFoot), she said she used to be “terrified” to play live.

She loves pop music but writes these lyrics: “People with nice homes / Shouldn’t play with matches. / They’ll burn it right down, / Tear their hearts right up. / And all that’s left in the middle / Are some smoky lungs.”

Because many of the songs are deeply personal, they sometimes resurrect pain in live performance.

And in a business in which the release of new material often comes years after a song is written, she’s admittedly impatient. Talking about her songwriting process, Kendrick said: “If it doesn’t happen immediately, I’m just not interested.”

Despite all that – and even though she and her family knew she’d be a visual artist – she ditched that assumed calling in college to pursue life as a performing songwriter. (She still works in the visual arts, making her own videos and album artwork.)

 
Breaking Some Shackles, Burdened by Others: The Dawn, “Waiting for the Storm”; and Jordan Danielsen, “Old Soul” PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 20 August 2014 08:52

I’ve written about four releases from Sean Ryan over the past six years – as a solo singer/songwriter, as part of Jim the Mule, and as the leader of the Dawn (and Sean Ryan & the Dawn). I’ve always liked his singing voice – a mature blend of authority, precision, and expression. But with much of his work as a solo act and bandleader I’ve found the combination of standard Americana arrangements and plain-spoken writing dully professional – not vivid enough to avoid the generic.

So the new six-track Waiting on the Storm album from the Dawn came as a pleasant surprise – in particular the expansive rocker “Bring It All Home,” a forceful jam that oozes personality and life and has a clear if winding path. An album full of similar songs would quickly become tiresome, but as a startling change-up from Ryan’s past work, it reverberates through the entire record.

 
Natural Flexibility: Los Lonely Boys, August 16 at River Roots Live PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 07 August 2014 05:57

Los Lonely Boys. Photo by Gabriella McSwann.

For the fact that Los Lonely Boys are around to headline this year’s River Roots Live festival, some people might thank God – and the trio of brothers Garza certainly does that. But bassist/singer JoJo also thanked his brother Henry’s pliability.

“I think it would’ve killed anybody else,” JoJo said of Henry’s horrific fall from a stage in February 2013. “I would have been dead. ... From the moment he fell in the hole, I thought it was completely over. ...

“We give a lot of thanks for Henry’s natural ability to be very flexible as part of the reason why he didn’t just crunch in half there.”

But Henry’s recovery has been slow. “Quite honestly,” JoJo said in a phone interview last week, “he’s not 100 percent still, and a lot of people don’t know that. ...

 
Back in the Taverns: The Fat Babies, July 31 through August 3 at the Bix Fest PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 24 July 2014 05:45

Beau Sample, the bassist and bandleader of the Fat Babies, has said he doesn’t want his Chicago-based septet to present the jazz of the 1920s as either a caricature or museum piece.

By all accounts, Sample and his bandmates have succeeded wildly – almost certainly a result of the Fat Babies balancing its performance schedule between bars and festivals.

The group has regular gigs at the Windy City’s Green Mill lounge and Honky Tonk BBQ – places where the nuances are less important than the swing. “The people who come to see us are really there to dance and drink and have fun,” Sample said in a phone interview last week. “A lot of the bands playing this stuff [early jazz] don’t have the opportunity to play for those crowds. ... The dancers are a big influence on what we do.”

The Fat Babies, he noted, are “trying to put it [old-time jazz] back in the taverns, where it came from. ... Basically, we’re doing what people have always done – which is just playing in bars for people drinking and having a good time.”

 
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