The 38th FitzGerald’s American Music Festival features longtime favorites and new faces | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

The 38th FitzGerald’s American Music Festival features longtime favorites and new faces 

click to enlarge C.J. Chenier

C.J. Chenier

Karen Murphy

Every year since 1981, FitzGerald’s American Music Festival has celebrated the Fourth of July with a great lineup of roots music, and the 38th edition is no exception: it has plenty of highlights on its four days on three stages (the club, the smaller SideBar, and a tent outside). Chicagoan Robbie Fulks rolls in with country guitar wizard Redd Volkaert (July 3, 6:30 PM, tent), who joined Merle Haggard's band in 1997 as a successor to the great Roy Nichols. Any aficionado of country guitar can tell you that those are some king-size shoes to fill, but Volkaert (who’s made excellent solo albums for Hightone and other labels) stepped into them like he was born to do it. NRBQ (July 4, 6:30 PM, tent) have been local favorites for so long that they now have two Chicago musicians in their lineup, bassist Casey McDonough and guitarist Scott Ligon. And it’s always good to hear from North Carolina-bred, New Orleans-based singer Nikki Hill (July 4, 9:30 PM, club), who performs for the second summer in a row; imagine a cross between R&B hall of famer LaVern Baker and rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson and you'll have a good idea where she’s coming from. Drummer and singer-songwriter Lindsay Beaver (July 6, 1:30 PM, tent), born in Nova Scotia and based in Austin, Texas, made her Alligator Records debut last year with Tough as Love, which alternates between driving blues and up-tempo rockabilly. Other locals on the bill include guitarist Jimmy Burns, with his evenhanded take on the blues (July 6, 6 PM, SideBar), and Peter Joly (July 4, 4 PM, SideBar) and Pie Eyed Pete & the New Dealers (July 6, 10 PM, SideBar), who both make interesting down-tempo folk. With its decades of bookings, the American Music Festival has made regulars of a number of wonderful artists, and I’m especially glad to see return visits by familiar faces Alejandro Escovedo, Marcia Ball, the Iguanas, Jon Dee Graham, Brave Combo, and Terrance Simien.   v

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