Square Roots: Black Lillies, Bachaco, Rajasthan Josh, Great Divide, Alasdair Roberts, and others | Lincoln between Montrose and Wilson | Fairs & Festivals | Chicago Reader
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Square Roots: Black Lillies, Bachaco, Rajasthan Josh, Great Divide, Alasdair Roberts, and others All Ages Recommended Soundboard

When: Sun., July 14, 12 p.m. 2013
Price: $10 suggested donation, $5 suggested donation for kids, $20 suggested donation for families
For an instrumental musician, Glenn Jones is a damn fine songwriter. He composes indelible melodies for acoustic guitar and banjo, steeped in American folk forms—much like those written by his old friend and collaborator John Fahey. Each ringing note not only lodges his hooks deeper in your ears but also acquaints you better with the people, places, and events he means to evoke—“Heartbreak Hill,” for instance, is a memorial for a friend who ran the Boston Marathon many times before dying from cancer, and “The Great Pacific Northwest” celebrates one of his favorite parts of the country. But he’s never made music so literally close to home as his latest album, My Garden State (Thrill Jockey), which he wrote during visits to his boyhood house to help care for his ailing mother. He’s too disciplined a composer to turn mawkish, but he’s invested these themes with extra measures of nostalgia, trepidation, and affection. Jones hasn’t played here in a year and a half, but he’ll make up for it by performing two concerts in one day—first as part of the Square Roots festival and then at Constellation. At Constellation cellist William Jason Raynovich opens with a short set that includes pieces by James Tenney, John Cage, Larry Polansky, Kaija Saariaho, and Morton Feldman (as well as one of his own). —Bill Meyer

Earlier this year I read Rob Young’s book Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music, a vivid but sometimes labored account of the ways traditional British cultural tropes have been recycled, transformed, and preserved through living music traditions. For a more succinct and pleasant illustration of many of the same ideas, you might just give a close listen to A Wonder Working Stone (Drag City), the latest and easily best album from remarkable Scottish singer, songwriter, and guitarist Alasdair Roberts. His masterful mix of British folk and modern folk-rock puts him in the company of groundbreaking syncretists such as Fairport Convention, Pentangle, and Steeleye Span—another way of saying that, despite great work from the likes of Waterson: Carthy and the Unthanks, nobody in the past decade or so has done nearly as much to advance the cause of British Isles folk as Roberts. His excellent liner notes break down the sources for his original spins on timeless folk conventions—both their story lines and the influential versions that inspired him—and many pieces combine his own tunes with thematically linked traditional songs in seamless medleys about death, sex, desire, or history that make the century of their origin irrelevant. Most of the musicians on the album (one of my favorites of 2013) will accompany Roberts at his two Chicago shows, part of his first visit to the U.S. in seven years; they include guitarist Ben Reynolds (Trembling Bells), bassist Stevie Jones (Boneheads), and fiddler Rafe Fitzpatrick and drummer Shane Connolly (both of Tattie Toes). Sadly missing is singer Olivia Chaney, whose clean, honeyed voice serves as a soulful foil to Roberts’s tart brogue. —Peter Margasak Jones’s first set is part of the Square Roots festival. He performs on the South Stage at 3:30 PM. Roberts performs on the North Stage at 4 PM; other acts at the festival today include the Black Lillies, Bachaco, Rajasthan Josh, and Great Divide. Jones also plays at 8:30 PM at Constellation. Roberts plays at Millennium Park on Monday evening.



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