After decades playing in the Court and Spark and Hiss Golden Messenger, Scott Hirsch turns front man | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

After decades playing in the Court and Spark and Hiss Golden Messenger, Scott Hirsch turns front man 

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click to enlarge Scott Hirsch

Scott Hirsch

Luisa Pelipetz

For nearly 20 years multi-instrumentalist Scott Hirsch has quietly sculpted rich landscapes of expansive Americana in San Francisco’s the Court and Spark. More recently, he’s collaborated with that band’s old front man, MC Taylor, on Taylor’s solo project, Hiss Golden Messenger. But a couple of years ago Hirsch finally stepped out on his own, and in 2016 he produced an album of kaleidoscopic range and beauty that encompasses his varied interests. Blue Rider Songs (Scissor Tail) summons the spirit of Little Feat’s Lowell George with a rustic vibe, funneling roots music through a prism of intimate detail and hushed projection. On opening track “Blue Rider,” a clopping groove is rooted in a primitive drum machine loop that suggests Johnny Cash’s Tennessee Two in the studio with Suicide’s Martin Rev, but Hirsch’s soft, conversational singing and richly tuneful, flanged leads smooth away any edge. As the album proceeds, the lush pedal-steel soliloquies of Thomas Heyman (another vet of the Court and Spark), gurgling organ fills of Phillip Cook (a frequent HGM sidekick), and steamy tenor saxophone of Matthew Douglas combine to infuse Hirsch’s ambling tunes with melodic generosity and a luxuriant vibe that I’ve found hard to resist. There are some nice instrumental digressions too: the brief “No Wife” sounds like T. Rex covering Gershon Kingsley’s “Popcorn,” while “Raga of the Sea” reveals a fluency in John Fahey’s American Primitive school of fingerstyle guitar. Tonight Hirsch fronts a stripped-down trio with bassist Lauren Bath and drummer Dylan Golden Aycock, who opens the show with a solo guitar set.   v

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