The New Album by Birds of Chicago

Bruce Von Stiers

JT Nero and Allison Russell front the Americana / folk band Birds of Chicago. They both had solo careers and then collaborated on a couple of projects. Then the formed their current band. As things moved forward, they recorded an album or two. About a month ago the band released their third studio album. The title of this new album is Love In Wartime.

The album has eleven songs and a play time of forty-five minutes. It was produced by JT and Luther Dickinson. Luther has played and recorded with the Black Crowes and Samantha Fish among others. The album was released by Signature Sounds Recordings.

For the band, Allison does vocals along with playing the clarinet and banjo. JT is also on vocals and plays acoustic guitar. Then there is Chris Merrell on bass and Nick Chambers on drums and vocals. Joel Schwartz plays lead guitar and Dan Abu Abai is on both rhythm and acoustic guitars. Drew Lindsay is on keys and piano, while Javier Saume-Mazzei does the percussion. Kelly Hogan and Nora O'Connor provide harmony vocals.

JT and Allison call their music “secular gospel.” That is indeed an intriguing label to put on music. So, does that really describe the tone and sound of Birds of Chicago? Probably so.

The album starts out with an intro that features harmonizing by Allison and a sound that is a cross between folk and gospel. So, right away you get the feel of that secular gospel that they claim for their musical style.

But things change up with the second entry on the album. Never Go Back is kind of a funky alt pop rock tune with toe tapping that reminded me of a song that I can't remember the title of.

The title track, Love In Wartime is a slow and endearing ballad.

The pace picks back up a bit with Travelers. Allison has some great vocals on this one.

Try has some aching vocals and tough guitar for a mild bluesy tone.

Lodestar is a great duet piece with JT and Allison intertwined with their vocals.

Roll Away has some nice guitar and vocals in a sort of moderate paced alt folk style.

Baton Rouge is a cool sounding bluesy rock song.

Robin Starchild gives some head bopping bluesy rock and gospel vocals and music.

Allison sings mellow, yet aching vocals in Superlover. She also does a great job on banjo in the song. Then there is a nice guitar solo in the middle.

The album closes with a very cool piece with slick guitar called Derecho.

Birds of Chicago definitely has a very interesting sound. I'm not quite sure if my assessment of their music coincides with the label of secular gospel that Allison and JT have given the band. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. I interpreted a lot of different stylings in the songs on this album. The music is solid and, while JT has pretty decent vocals, Allison really shines in the songs where she takes the lead vocals. I did enjoy Love in Wartime and hope that the band continues to make music of this caliber.

Love in Wartime can be found at major music retailers.

The band's official web site is . The band's also has a Facebook band page at

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© 2018 Bruce E Von Stiers