Chris Stamey Experience | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Chris Stamey Experience 

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After releasing Travels in the South last June, Chris Stamey--the pop auteur best known as coleader of quirky trailblazers the dB's--spent an August weekend jamming with his old Hoboken friends Yo La Tengo and improv keyboardist Tyson Rogers. Though they'd planned to cut just a few songs, by the end of the session they had enough material for a whole album. Until Travels, a lovely if overly fussy collection of originals, Stamey hadn't put out a solo record in a decade, instead devoting his time to producing artists like Le Tigre, Sue Garner, and Whiskeytown. The prompt follow-up, A Question of Temperature (Yep Roc), is the most casual, fun album this notorious perfectionist has released since he started out back in the mid-70s with his proto-jangle band the Sneakers. Its first half is an eclectic batch of bashed-out covers: many revive Vietnam-era sentiment clearly applicable to last year's presidential campaign, from Cream's "Politician" to Les McCann and Eddie Harris's soul-jazz number "Compared to What"; there's also an oddly toothless reading of Television's "Venus" (if nothing else, it renders the lyrics comprehensible) and a gorgeous spin on "Plainest Thing" by Tift Merritt, one of Stamey's studio clients. The second half is originals, including two versions of the Stamey classic "The Summer Sun," a 1978 single that provided the title for YLT's last studio album. At moments--as on the ten-minute-plus "McCauley Street (Let's Go Downtown)," where Ira Kaplan indulges in some trademark feedback heroics--it can sound like Stamey's wandered onto a YLT track. But his pretty vocals and delicate melodies root each song; there's no mistaking the guiding sensibility here. For this rare Chicago gig Stamey plays with Rogers, bassist John Chumbriss, and drummer Anton Fier, member of the legendary Feelies and founder of the Golden Palominos. Dylan Rice & the Dynasties, Blue-Eyed Son, Gidgets Ga Ga, and Kristin Shout open. Thu 4/21, 8:30 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408, $10 in advance, $12 at the door.

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