Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Chicago blues legend John Primer and his band provide plenty of sparks during recent show at The Venue in Aurora


Even after playing the Chicago blues circuit for decades, the 77-year-old John Primer performs with more energy and enthusiasm than musicians half his age.

Such was the case when Primer played at The Venue in Aurora on Sept. 16 as part of its monthly Blues and Brews night. The night also served as a CD release party for Primer’s latest CD, “Hard Times.”

Of course, no one would expect anything less from the bandleader and lead guitarist for Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Magic Slim & The Teardrops. The video for “Hard Times” – shot by Geneva’s own Andy Young – depicts Primer going around to blues clubs in Chicago that he had played at only to find them shut down.

While it is sad that so many blues clubs have closed over the years – I am still mourning Chord on Blues in St. Charles shutting its doors several years ago – it is fortunate that places like The Venue welcomes blues musicians with open arms.

The night spotlighted the working class blues that are close to Primer’s heart. Alongside his original songs, Primer also paid homage to his own blues heroes in performing songs like ”Before You Accuse Me (Take a Look at Yourself),” written by Bo Diddley.

Primer and his Real Deal Blues Band also injected plenty of heart into John Lennon’s song “Imagine.” The song imagines the divisions between people being erased, a timely song given the country’s current state of affairs.

Led by the explosive harmonica power of Steve Bell, the son of the late Carey Bell, Primer’s band also provided plenty of sparks during the evening.

 Let’s hope Primer and his band will continue to take the stage for many more years to come.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Chicago folk duo Frances Luke Accord to perform first show in more than two years


When indie folk duo Frances Luke Accord performs Thursday at the Golden Dagger, 2447 N. Halsted St. in Chicago, it will mark the first time Nicholas Gunty and Brian Powers have played together since before the start of the pandemic.

Fans who have been waiting for Frances Luke Accord to return to the stage will hear the duo perform songs from its new album, “Safe In Sound,” set for release on Feb. 9 on Two-Dale Records/Tone Tree Music. Also on the bill is Michigan native Chris DuPont.

The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $15, available at ticketweb.com.

I had the chance to talk to Powers about the upcoming show.

Q – Great talking to you. I imagine that you will be performing songs from your upcoming album “Safe In Sound” during the show.

Yeah, we are, and we are really looking forward to it. It will be our first time performing a lot of the songs live.

It’s also our first show since pre-COVID. So that’s notable.

Q – Oh, seriously?

Yeah. Nick, my bandmate, lives out on the East Coast and I live in Chicago. We don’t get to see each other nearly as much, particularly since COVID.

We’re really looking forward to being back together and sharing new and old music with our Chicago fan base.

We played at a friend’s wedding about a year ago. It was just kind of background music, so I don’t really count that as a show. Thursday night at the Golden Dagger will be the first show we’ve played since Feb. 1, 2020, in Asheville, North Carolina.

We both work other jobs to make ends meet and it’s just frankly kind of the reality post COVID about how really brutal it is for musicians. It was really hard pre-COVID and it is just like immeasurably harder now, post-COVID, just to make your ends meet.

I think it’s important to talk about. I think it’s really important for musicians to kind of be transparent about how difficult it is to make ends meet.

You know, we have roughly 120,000 streams of our music every month, but we make about $300 a month off of that.

Q – You must have a pretty close relationship to be able to survive like you are at a distance.

Yeah, you know, Nick is like a brother at this point. So we make it work.

We spent a lot of time together pre-COVID. We were touring nationally and doing anywhere from 50 to 100 shows a year.

We’re just grateful to be able to play at all post-COVID.

Q – Your music has been described as “the definition of lean-in music.” Do you think that’s an apt description of your music?

Yeah, we do. We like that description a lot, actually.

Our music is very quiet. It’s very soft and calming and we put a lot of effort into lyric writing and arranging.

We hope listeners lean in and listen really closely.

Q – Of course your new album is coming out in February and the title of the new album is “Safe In Sound.” It seems like that’s a play on words, but there also seems to be a meaning behind the name.

Yeah, definitely. We were making a lot of the music on this album during COVID, when the pandemic was raging outside of our respective apartment. And so we both kind of felt that we were safe inside with our music.

And so that’s kind of where it came from.

Q – Musically, what were you trying to do on this album?

Musically, we were trying to open things up. We wanted to make a folk record that also had an ambience. We’re both big suckers for ambient music.

We try to write folk music that is musically interesting. That kind of means chord progressions that aren’t super straight forward.

We wanted to make music as interesting as possible, but also open it up to collaborators. So for the first time on this album, we got other folks involved, like Don Mitchell of Darlingside, who co-produced a lot of this music.

It was really helpful in kind of “unstucking” us whenever we were stuck on certain songs. Like The Beatles’ mantra, “I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends,” that was very true in the making of this album. We had a lot of great help from a lot of great friends.

Q – Also, I see the song “This Morning” features Chicago artist Liz Chidester.

Yeah, she’s great. She has an amazing voice.

Q – Do you think it also gets your music out to more people by collaborating with different artists?

Definitely. It’s partially a strategic business decision, but also, it’s enjoyable to work with folks whose music you really enjoy.

Q – Now you and Nick were both raised in South Bend, Indiana and started performing together while you were at the University of Notre Dame. What made you click? Why did it feel right playing together?

It was a mutual love of songwriting, particularly folk based songwriting.

There aren’t that many people out there who are writing folk music. And so when we met each other as 18-year-olds, we were just I think really, really drawn to each other and also inspired by each other’s love of the craft.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Chicago musician Andy Pratt continues to engage listeners on his second album, "Sweeter Than The Wine"



In making his followup album to his 2017 album “Horizon Disrupted” – produced by noted producer and musician Steve Albini – Chicago-based singer-songerwriter Andy Pratt decided he wanted to record the album in his home studio.

“Sweeter Than The Wine” was released on Sept. 9. To celebrate the album’s release and his 40th birthday, he performed Sept. 11 at The Hideout in Chicago.

I had the chance to talk to Andy about the new album.

Q – Great talking to you again. I know you performed on Sept. 11 at The Hideout for a CD release party for "Sweeter Than The Wine" and a 40th birthday bash. How did that go? 

Thanks! The show went great. I performed these songs with my friends Katie Andrick (violin), Jim Barclay (drums), and Joe Policastro (bass) and that alone meant everything to me.

Nothing is better than performing with people you love playing music with and genuinely enjoying their company off stage, as well. We had a nice listening crowd. It was a beautiful evening.

Q – Of course, this album is the followup to your debut album, "Horizon Disrupted." What goals did you have for this album? 

This was a record I had been planning on doing for some time now. A few years ago, before the pandemic, I became interested in analog synthesizers and drum machines.

I wanted to find a way to incorporate these into my songs. I had also been interested in home recording and wanted to make an entire record at my home studio.

Q – A few of the songs have a gypsy jazz feeling to them, most notably the song "Without You." Were you looking to explore new musical horizons on this album? 

I wasn’t specifically trying to explore new genres, but I do think some new ones crept onto the album by happenstance. There are definitely more story-based songs with fairly long narratives and half of the songs are in a minor key.

The minor songs you are referring to could be thought of as melodies with a Django Reinhardt feel, but that’s not what I was necessarily going for. I love Django, though!

Q – How would you say “Sweeter Than The Wine” compares lyrically to your first album? Did you set out to address themes on this album that you didn’t address on your first album?  

The majority of the songs are love songs. I seem to never get tired of listening to or writing love songs. I think, in the end, that’s what it’s all about.

And the other songs on the album are about childhood. That is a new theme in my writing, but not necessarily something I was deliberately putting out as a new subject to address. 

Q – You recorded the album at your home and you played almost all of the instruments on Sweeter Than The Wine. What made you want to go that route? 

For the past ten years or so, I was fascinated with the idea of home recording. I had initially just been interested in recording completely solo music, guitar and vocals or just guitar.

How I came to recording electric bass, synths, drum machines, etc.? I guess I just went down the rabbit hole. It was honestly a lot of fun.

Q – Do you have any dream projects or collaborations?

I think the next recording project or two I would like to do would be with a jazz trio, just guitar, bass, and drums in a studio. I might sing on a couple tracks too. And also a solo jazz guitar album. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Chicago-based kindie duo Wendy and DB to release "Into the Little Blue House" as way to educate youngsters about the blues

Wendy Morgan and Darryl Boggs believe you are never too young to learn about the blues.

Morgan and Boggs front the Chicago-based kindie duo Wendy and DB. Their fifth album, the aptly-named “Into the Little Blue House,” features an all-star cast of Chicago blues musician, including Grammy-winning drummer Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, Ivy Ford, Anne Harris, Billy Branch. Mike Wheeler and Johnny Iguana.

“Into the Little Blue House” is set for release on Sept. 23. To celebrate the release of the CD, the duo will perform a children’s show on Oct. 23 at Evanston SPACE, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston.

I had the chance to talk to Wendy and Darryl about “Into the Little Blue House.”

Q – What was the idea behind the album?

Darryl – I wanted to find a way to get blues music to kids, but I wanted to do it in a way that they could understand it. If you come to them at their level, then you can spread the word.

Wendy – We had kids sing on the album. A couple of our blues musicians had younger kids that we were able to get in on the session, which was amazing.

Q – How did you line up all these blues musicians to play on the album?

Wendy – We have to give all the credit to our producer, Michael Freeman. He’s a Grammy winning blues producer.

We were trying to be as inclusive as we could. Ivy and I wrote a song together, "Women of the Blues.”

We were trying to include as many people as we could on this album. We had such a great time with it.
Q – I’ve listened to that song a couple of times and it seems like you really collaborated well on that song.

Wendy – We really did. She’s lovely to work with.

Q – I’ve had the opportunity to see Anne Harris perform a couple of times and she is so energetic on stage.

Wendy – She’s amazing. Anne is a friend of mine and I wouldn’t think of anyone else but Anne to be on this album.

Q – Was it easy putting together an album like this?

Michael is great to work with. The title cut, “Little Blue House,” is really about a world that’s not fighting all the time. It’s like an ideal home. It could be the planet Earth. I was trying to use that as a metaphor.

Q – This is the fifth album that you have made together. Why do you think you work well together?

Daryl – One of the reasons is that we’ve known each other for a long time. Our musical friendship led to a personal friendship.

One day, almost about 10 years ago, Wendy came to me and asked, ‘Hey, you want to write some children’s music together?’ I was still teaching school at the time and we got together and started writing songs and next thing you know, we did our first CD.

Wendy – That was in 2013 when we did our first album. We’re good friends first and we also trust each other on stage.

Q – And I see that 10% of the proceeds from “Into the Little Blue House” will go to The Pinetop Perkins Foundation.

Wendy – That’s true. We’ve always given back.

This is a very important album to get out there right now. Billy Branch told us that he wished he had come up with this project. He was like, ‘Hey, you beat me to it.’