Songwriter: Austin on the Road | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Songwriter: Austin on the Road 

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Jo Carol Pierce was a high school classmate of Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, and Butch Hancock in Lubbock, Texas nearly four decades ago. (She later married Gilmore, though they eventually divorced.) She's now part of the Austin mafia that includes those three and a handful of other world-class talents, but she's arrived at this point only after a diverse career that saw her writing a novel and several plays, acting, and doing social work, among other things. She didn't begin performing until the mid-80s, but word quickly got around Austin; her reputation outside of town rests soley on a unique and wonderful album called Across the Great Divide, on which 19 mostly Austin-based artists each tackle one of Pierce's songs. The sheer disparateness of the resultant performances, from thrash to folk and everything--everything--in between, is a little intimidating, and Pierce hasn't yet recorded anything of her own. But on the evidence, she can write wrenching ballads ("Across the Great Divide"), smoky, folky ruminations ("Scratch Upon Her Windowpane"), Gilmore style antique country ("Reunion"), coursing pop songs ("You Bother Me"), riotous novelty numbers ("Does God Have Us By the Twat or What?"), and lots more, all of it first-rate and all of it unforced and natural. I can't vouch for her live, but I also can't imagine her embarking on a major touring career,so it might be worth the effort to see one of her first--and perhaps only--performances in Chicago. She's the host of two acoustic nights that will see her, David Halley, Jimmy LaFave, and Michael Fracasso sitting on stage talking and singing songs. Saturday, 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 525-2508. Sunday, 8:30 PM, Fitzgerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118.

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