Parlor James | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Parlor James 

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PARLOR JAMES

Not for nothing does Parlor James's Amy Allison call her other band the Maudlins. The daughter of sly jazz-blues songster Mose, she imbues the country-tinged songs on her solo debut, The Maudlin Years (Koch), with unbridled pathos, lamenting failed relationships almost rhapsodically. In "Garden State Mall" she tries to buy happiness, but only ends up with new clothes, perfume, and a $25 makeover, as she sadly contemplates "Couples in love, holding hands / Gazing in windows at gold wedding bands." "Holding the Baby" evokes Loretta Lynn's numerous meditations on raising kids while the father's out drinking and carousing. She's not always dwelling on what she hasn't got; she serves up some ultimatums, too. "The Whiskey Makes You Sweeter" finds her breaking out of a boozy stupor to see what a louse she's been with, while "Put It in a Box" suggests that her unreliable lover lock his heart in said box to prove his devotion. The woozy lilt of The Maudlin Years meets rock bluster in Parlor James, Allison's new duo with Lone Justice cofounder Ryan Hedgecock. On its recent debut EP, Dreadful Sorry (Discovery), the musical settings transform the dark humor in Allison's songs into something downright gothic. Hedgecock's singing pales next to Allison's, but when they blend their voices, as on "Devil's Door," they recall the distinctive harmonies of John Doe and Exene Cervenka. For this gig, its Chicago debut, the duo will perform with a full band. Wednesday, 9:30 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont; 773-281-4444.

PETER MARGASAK

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

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