Amy Allison | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Amy Allison 

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On the cover of last year's terrific Sad Girl (Diesel Only) Amy Allison sits at a bar, slumped forlornly over a drink. And inside, with a backing band called the Maudlins stirring up an elegant, detailed mix of pedal-steel-soaked country and blue-eyed soul, she laments her poor luck in love and her self-destructive habits with such vehemence that when she declares, "And it's not just an act, it's a matter of fact," you believe it. But she's not just crying in her beer: as on her fine 1996 debut, The Maudlin Years (Koch), the daughter of great jazz-blues singer and pianist Mose Allison tweaks her romantic misfortunes with appealing self-awareness--if she reproaches one who's let her down, she also acknowledges her own blindness in the matter. Though Allison's melodies are flat-out gorgeous, her voice--characterized by a high-pitched nasal vibrato that's earned her comparisons to everyone from Iris DeMent to Fran Drescher--is an acquired taste. But she wields it masterfully, imbuing her words with layers of nuance. When she sings, "You've got my heart on a Tilt-A-Whirl," it truly seems as if that heart is about to burst. Allison rarely comes to town--she last played here in 1996 with Parlor James, her short-lived rock band with former Lone Justice guitarist Ryan Hedgecock. Here she performs solo, opening for Christy McWilson. Saturday, August 17, 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/David Plakke.

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