Birds raising money for Music and Memory
Birds of Chicago, the collective centered around Allison Russell and JT Nero, reassert the simple notion that beautiful words and music can still tap deep veins of emotion. Whether touring as a duo or with the full family band (as they will be at The Opera House,) Nero and Russell have emerged as two of the most compelling new voices in North American Roots music.
Birds of Chicago was born in 2012 when Nero began writing for his vocal star-muse, Russell. Both were accomplished singer/songwriters with projects of their own, Nero with JT and the Clouds and Russell with the Canadian roots outfit Po' Girl, but together there was an unmistakable chemistry. Nero had found the perfect voice for his rock and roll psalms. Russell moved from being a primary songwriter to an interpreter. The band has been lauded for its poetic lyrics and harmonies, and a sound steeped in Americana, country, soul and bluegrass-flavored rock. Multi-instrumentalists, Nero plays guitar and percussion while Russell plays clarinet, banjo, ukulele and guitar. Birds of Chicago are a good mix of blues, folk, and rock. Imagine a rough-edged country voice up against a soulful sound as smooth as honey.
Stark, elemental imagery that feels like scripture, or a lost folk song recovered; the Birds draw heavily on the gospel tradition and the music feels like a new, secular gospel of sorts. For Birds of Chicago, every word counts. Every note counts. No gold-dusting, no filler. Music is the good news and Real Midnight, the band's poignant new Joe Henry produced album, throbs with an urgency that feels quietly seismic. "Our music, from its start, has been about staking out and savoring moments of hope and joy and redemption in a turbulent — and often cruel — world," the band writes in its Kickstarter campaign. Music this raw and soul-rich demands to be experienced live, and Birds of Chicago have developed a fervent following, touring 200 nights a year since their formation in late 2012. For these Birds, singing for a room full of new people, hearts wide open, keeps off the cold and chases off the shadows. "Playing live music is kind of a drug for me," Nero is quoted in an interview with Columbus Alive, "We try to keep things very intimate and un-precious ... A good show should take you through the whole grizzly spectrum of human emotions. There's bitterness, there's hope, there's laughs, and you should get choked up a couple of times."
The Chicago Tribune describes Birds of Chicago as "On the verge of breaking big time" and The LA Times lauded them as "This year's biggest roots surprise." Live ... Birds of Chicago are pure magic.
Hayley Reardon will open. Born in 1996 just outside of Boston, Reardon discovered a passion for writing folk songs on her mothers old guitar at a very young age. She quickly established a name for herself in the storied Cambridge, Mass. folk scene.
Reardon was named a "Bostonian of the Year" by the Boston Globe Magazine in 2012 in celebration of not only her music but her work to use it as a vessel for empowerment. With a voice that is distinctively rich and a contemplative sincerity in her songwriting, Reardon has far more in common with Patty Griffin, Lucinda Williams, and Tracy Chapman than many of todays young pop singer/songwriters, boasting a lyrical and melodic weight far beyond her years.
Performer Magazine describes her music as brilliantly moving folk/pop with a lyrical depth and soul, while American Songwriter Magazine refers to Numb and Blue, the lead single from Wayfindings, as a melancholy little masterpiece.
Partial proceeds from this concert will be donated to Music and Memory. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, affecting 5.4 million Americans. The disease swiftly robs patients of their memories and other brain functions, forcing most to live out their final years in nursing homes. For some reason, the area of our brains that respond to music seem to escape unscathed from the ravages of Alzheimer's disease. Studies have shown that music often helps to reduce agitation and improve behavioral issues that are common in the middle-stages of the disease. Even in the late-stages of Alzheimer's, a person may be able to tap a beat or sing lyrics to a song from childhood. Music provides a way to connect, even after verbal communication has become difficult. There's something about music that cuts through right up until the very end of the disease. Familiar music from the past can help people with dementia feel at home. It calms them, it increases socialization, and it decreases the need for mood controlling medications.
Music and Memory is a non-profit organization that brings personalized music into the lives of the elderly or infirm through digital music technology, vastly improving quality of life. The organization trains nursing home staff and other elder care professionals, as well as family caregivers, to create and provide personalized playlists using iPods enabling those struggling with Alzheimer's, dementia and other cognitive and physical challenges to reconnect with the world through music-triggered memories. By providing access and education Music and Memory aims to make this form of personalized therapeutic music a standard of care throughout the health care industry. Tony Lewis, President and CEO, Cobble Hill Health Care in Brooklyn, New York asserts that "despite the enormous sums of money spent on mood- and behavior-altering medications that are often not particularly effective, nothing compares to these iPods when it comes to improving quality of life."
Tickets are available from bocbfoperahouse.brownpapertickets.com $22 and $30. They will also be available at The Opera House for cash only the night of the show. We will be collecting gently used iPods to pass forward to Music and Memory. Bring them to The Bellows Falls Opera House on Jan.18 or send them to Karin Mallory PO Box 694 Walpole, NH 03608.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.