Chicago / Milwaukee Concert Preview
September 16-19, 2010

First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2010, Volume 17, #9

Written by John Metzger

Wed September 15, 2010, 06:30 AM CDT


9/16 - Mark Olson - Club Garibaldi - Milwaukee - 8:00 p
9/17 - Mark Olson - Schuba's - Chicago - 7:00 p

Mark Olson - Many Colored Kite

Although it is highly likely that The Jayhawks will rise again when expanded versions of its classic albums Hollywood Town Hall and Tomorrow the Green Grass are unleashed in January, any hope for a permanent reunion of Gary Louris and Mark Olson has been put on hold, at least for the moment. In 2007, Olson had used his divorce from songwriter Victoria Williams as the inspiration for his solo debut The Salvation Blues. Given the renewed attention he received from last year’s Ready for the Flood — his first full-fledged collaboration with Louris in more than a decade — he quickly crafted his latest effort Many Colored Kite. Like everything Olson has done since he walked away from The Jayhawks, the material on Many Colored Kite is subtle. Adorned with rustic, Americana-influenced textures, his songs initially seem to drift closer to folk than alt-country. Beneath the surface, though, Olson’s approach hasn’t changed considerably over the years. In concert, however, he tends to do a better job of bringing these two sides of his persona together. Olson will make this point clearer when he performs at Milwaukee’s Club Garibaldi on September 16 and at Schuba’s in Chicago on September 17.

Railroad Earth - Amen Corner

9/17 - Railroad Earth - House of Blues - Chicago - 8:30 p

Railroad Earth has had a busy year trying to regroup. Essentially, before returning to the road in late April, the ensemble took some time to recharge its batteries, hire a new bass player, and record the fifth studio album of its career. Johnny Grubb left Railroad Earth at the end of 2009, and Andrew Altman — who previously had worked with Blueground Undergrass and The Codetalkers — subsequently was hired to replace him. Altman is the third person to play the bass for the outfit in the past decade, and these sorts of changes are bound to take their toll on a band. Railroad Earth spent most of the summer riding the festival circuit, which likely gave Altman time to become fully acquainted with the outfit’s repertoire. This fall, Railroad Earth is previewing material from its forthcoming endeavor, which is slated for release in early October. With this in mind, Railroad Earth’s performance at Chicago’s House of Blues on September 17 might be more restrained than usual, though it also will offer a sneak preview at the latest chapter in the collective’s career.

Aimee Mann - @#%&*! Smilers

9/17 - Aimee Mann - Prairie Center - Schaumburg - 8:00 p
9/18 - Aimee Mann - Old Town School - Chicago - 7:30 p & 10:00 p
9/19 - Aimee Mann - Old Town School - Chicago - 7:00 p

Aimee Mann’s first big breakthrough happened with the help of MTV, which turned Til Tuesday’s Voices Carry into an omnipresent hit. Fourteen years later, Mann was again thrust into the limelight. This time, however, it was for her work on the soundtrack to Magnolia. It’s safe to say that during the intervening time frame, a lot had changed about the way in which music is marketed to the public. Mann has adapted her strategy as well as anyone, while still remaining true to her artistic vision. Issued in 2008, her latest set @#%&*! Smilers is a smartly conceived collection of folk-pop tunes, and taken in full, it is, perhaps, the easiest outing in her catalogue to embrace. With four shows crammed into three days — she’ll be at the Prairie Center in Schaumburg on September 17 and at the Old Town School in Chicago on September 18 and 19 — Mann undoubtedly is pushing a new product. In this case, she is previewing selections from her forthcoming musical, a stage adaptation of The Forgotten Arm.

Margot and the Nuclear So & So's - Buzzard

9/18 - Margot and the Nuclear So & So's - Mad Planet - Milwaukee - 9:00 p
9/19 - Margot and the Nuclear So & So's - Lincoln Hall - Chicago - 8:00 p

In spite of its odd and rather clunky moniker, Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s makes music that is as straightforward as it is melodic — so much so that Epic smelled the group’s sales potential soon after its debut The Dust of Retreat became a minor hit. However, the relationship between the label and the band soured almost immediately. Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s fought with Epic over which songs should be featured on its sophomore set, and the end result was so bizarre that the whole arrangement seems suspiciously like a failed marketing plan. Essentially, two albums were produced: Animal contained the selections that had been chosen by the ensemble, while Not Animal fulfilled Epic’s vision. Nobody won, and Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s has since been forced back onto the indie circuit. Scheduled a few days before its new effort Buzzard hits store shelves, Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s will try to pick up the pieces with shows at Milwaukee’s Mad Planet on September 18 and Chicago’s Lincoln Hall on September 19.


Of Further Interest...

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: September 11-15, 2010

Local Concert Preview for Chicago: September 1-10, 2010

Local Concert Preview for Chicago: August 25-31, 2010

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: August 20-24, 2010

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: September 14-23, 2009


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