Amy Allison | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Amy Allison 

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On her last album Amy Allison sang, "Sad girl, I've always been a sad girl," and she hasn't brightened up much on her new follow-up, No Frills Friend (Diesel Only). The daughter of jazz-blues singer and pianist Mose Allison seems to find endless inspiration in loss and longing, whether she's struggling to break free of a failed relationship in "Hanging on a Moment" ("No matter where I go or what I do / I just can't seem to get away from you") or begging an ex not to leave in "Say It Isn't So." Yet somehow she manages to rise above pathos, imbuing her pain with poetic dignity, and on the giddy "Baby, You're the One" she even allows herself to enjoy the euphoria of a new infatuation. The album was recorded in Scotland with local musicians and the music is different from her earlier, country-inflected work; there's still a rootsy directness to the arrangements, but it's crossbred with the ebullience of Brill Building pop. She's on tour with labelmate Neil Cleary; they're sharing a band that includes superb guitarist Mark Spencer (Blood Oranges, Freedy Johnston, Kelly Willis). Tuesday, September 16, 9 PM, Gunther Murphy's, 1638 W. Belmont; 773-472-5139.

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