For this year’s virtual Folk Alliance International and SXSW conferences, BGS collaborated with Yamaha Guitars to film performances from some of the artists we are most excited about in 2021. Over the past few weeks, we have been publicly releasing these exclusive videos.
Nashville-based Birds of Chicago have toured the world playing their unique mix of Americana, soul, and rock & roll. This year, husband and wife duo Allison Russell and JT Nero will be starting a new chapter of their career, with Russell releasing her first-ever solo album, Outside Child, on May 21, and Nero branching out as a co-writer and producer. (Russell is BGS’ May Artist of the Month.) And while Birds of Chicago may be embarking on an indefinite hiatus, that didn’t stop Nero and Russell from showering us with new, unreleased tracks.
Joined by Steve Dawson on guitar, they begin with “Red Skies,” showcasing the enchanting blend of Nero’s raspy and Russell’s soulful vocals, as well as Russell’s skill as both a banjoist and a clarinet player.
Next, they transition to “Quasheba, Quasheba,” a song Russell penned, recorded, and released with supergroup Our Native Daughters, consisting of Russell, Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, and Leyla McCalla. The song’s title comes from the name of the enslaved “many times great-grand matriarch” of Russell’s own Grenadian family, and the song itself serves as a meditation on resilience, love, and protection. Introducing the song, Russell explains, “I’ve been thinking a lot lately during these hard times about resilience… the resilience of our ancestors; we are standing on their shoulders, and they lived through harder times than these.”
Birds of Chicago close out their performance with “Saints of Motion.” In the second verse, Nero sings, “We flew out on the edge of the storm/ we roamed the wild sea/ we were the question and the answer/ we were force and poetry,” demonstrating the poetic lyricism that has won the group so many loyal fans over the years. While we will be sad to say goodbye to Birds of Chicago for now, we cannot wait to see the love and care these collaborators have put into Russell’s solo album as she embarks on telling her story in her own words.
You can discover more about Yamaha Guitars and the Yamaha Custom Shop at YamahaGuitars.com.