FitzGerald's American Music Festival: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Blasters, James Hunter, Susan Cowsill, Waco Brothers, Brave Combo, and others | FitzGerald’s | Fairs & Festivals | Chicago Reader
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FitzGerald's American Music Festival: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Blasters, James Hunter, Susan Cowsill, Waco Brothers, Brave Combo, and others The List (Music) Soundboard

When: Sun., July 4, 12 p.m. 2010
Price: $35, $30 before 1 PM, $5 children, all-ages till 9 PM
www.fitzgeraldsnightclub.com/AmericanMusicFestival.html
With his recent major-label debut, Backatown (Verve Forecast), Troy Andrews, aka TROMBONE SHORTY, looks primed to be the next breakout act in New Orleans music. Self-assured if somewhat facile, the album packs brass-band funk, hard-rock riffing, jazz improvisation, and sparkling modern R & B into a party-music powerhouse, with the great technique and respect for tradition that mark the Crescent City aesthetic. Andrews, 24, is just as versatile an instrumentalist as he is a stylist—he plays as much trumpet as trombone and contributes the occasional keyboard or drum track—and his exuberance and confidence with all kinds of music make it easy to forgive him when he overestimates his own skills as a singer or lets himself get boxed in by too-slick production. The studio isn't exactly his turf yet—judging from the live recordings I've heard, he really comes to life when he gets onstage.

SUSAN COWSILL began her musical career at age eight as the youngest member of 60s family band the Cowsills, the model for the Partridge Family. These days she lives and works in New Orleans, but the superb new Lighthouse (Threadhead)—only her second solo album—reflects a much different side of the city's musical life than Backatown. Her songs are an immaculate mix of twangy guitar pop and folk rock, with lyrics that confront the destruction wrought upon her city (and her own life) by Hurricane Katrina. Cowsill lost her brother Barry to the storm, as well as her home and most of her belongings; his body wasn't found for four months, and the day before his much-delayed memorial service in February 2006 her brother Billy died at his home in Calgary, Alberta. Despite all that, "ONOLA," which describes a woman quitting the city she loves, is the exception here—most of the songs are streaked with guarded, bittersweet optimism about New Orleans's future, especially the closing love letter, "Crescent City Sneaux," which invokes the town's indomitable spirit and its way of weaving joyous music into the fabric of everyday life. Cowsill's slightly burred voice, which sometimes reminds me of Lucinda Williams without the southern drawl, is a perfect fit for the tone of her songs: raw, a bit sweet, and bracingly honest.

Cowsill plays in the club at 4:30 PM and Trombone Shorty (joined by his band Orleans Avenue) plays in the tent at 9:45 PM. —Peter Margasak

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