Artist: Birds Of Chicago
Album: Real Midnight
Label: Five Head Entertainment
Release Date: 02/19/2016
At first glance, the comparisons between Birds of Chicago and Alabama Shakes might seem apparent. Both are interracial bands helmed by women with a powerful presence. Each outfit draws on a reservoir of southern blues, gospel and R&B, and uses those influences to cull their signature sound. Both bands can tout two studio albums and the kind of critical buzz that makes them media darlings. Granted, Birds of Chicago have yet to grace the Grammys or achieve the kind of sales that might make them household names, but if their new album is any indication, that sort of success may follow in only a matter of time. Of course, having a highly accredited producer like Joe Henry at the helm doesn’t hurt, but it’s also apparent that with their sophomore set, the band’s already achieved a level of competence and credibility that makes them worthy of becoming mainstream contenders.
Songs such as “Remember the Wild Horse,” “Kinderspel (Child’s Game),” “Pelicans” and “Time and Times” exude earnest intent, each a soulful serenade that seems to spring from the soul and resonate with every passionate phrase. Singer Allison Russell conveys her conviction with a religious-like reverence, finding a perfect platform in songs co-written with the band’s other chief mainstay, guitarist JT Nero. It’s a perfect pairing, one that makes each of these songs strike a responsive chord immediately at the outset. Still, the music builds subtly, mellow and melodious, yet still insistent and embracing. It’s a substantive approach, and one that allows Birds of Chicago ample opportunity to soar.