Birds of Chicago to bring their harmonies to the islands

Birds-of-Chicago are centred around the singing/songwriting partnership of Allison Russell and JT Nero. Photo: Yve Assad.

CRITICALLY acclaimed, soulful Americana/rock and roll band Birds of Chicago are to bring their songs and sounds to Shetland this summer for the only Scottish date of their forthcoming tour.

The husband-and-wife team of JT Nero and Allison Russell, who was part of the Canadian group Po’ Girl, will perform with their full band at Mareel on Sunday 20 May.

Following the success of their gospel-influenced 2016 album Real Midnight, late last year Birds of Chicago released a well received EP American Flowers and this year will tour in support of their latest long-player Love in Wartime.

Known for their “near perfect Americana”, the group describe their new work – released on Signature Sounds on 4 May – as a “sprawling rock and roll circus of an album”.

Friends of the band including Kenneth Pattengale of The Milk Carton Kids and Maya de Vitry of The Stray Birds appear on Birds of Chicago’s recent recordings.

Birds of Chicago have been performing around 200 shows a year since 2013 and, after all that shaping and sharpening on the road, recorded Love in Wartime in Chicago against “a backdrop of bewilderment, deep divide and dread”.

In that context, Russell says: “We want to give people some good news, and we want them to be able to dance when they hear it.”

Nero concurs: “A good show can send you back out into the night feeling – for at least a little while – that everything isn’t broken. Right now, we wanna dose out as much of that feeling as we can.”

Nero said both he and Allison were “roughly half Scottish – Robertsons on Alli’s side, Lindsays and Sinclairs on mine” and “after a quick, lazy Wikipedia search, I am fairly certain that I am a direct descendant of William Sinclair, first Earl of Caitheness”.

“I am not entirely sure if that makes me an Earl as well; I hope someone will inform me if so!” he said. “Regardless, we are extremely excited to come to Shetland, an island of such rough beauty and living history. We cannot wait to come.”

Tickets are selling briskly already and Neil Riddell of local promoters Ragged Wood says it is one of the gigs he is looking forward to most in 2018.

“As soon as I heard Real Midnight I knew we had to get this band to Shetland,” he says. “Anyone who enjoyed the great vocal harmonies of previous visiting bands like The Lone Bellow and The Stray Birds will find a lot to love in these guys.”