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Published: Thursday, 5/10/2012

Birds of Chicago land at Manhattan's

BY ROD LOCKWOOD
BLADE STAFF WRITER
JT Nero and Allison Russell will perform Saturday in Toledo. JT Nero and Allison Russell will perform Saturday in Toledo.
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At some point on Saturday night in Manhattan's Union Square Lounge two voices will converge, creating a singular, joyous sound that is so communal and harmonious that the individual singers will become one.

It's at that point --or points as the case may be over a number of songs -- that roots and soul and all the organic hybrids of American music meld into one sound that conveys joy and sorrow and peace and tension at the same time.

This is what happens when JT Nero, aka former Toledoan Jeremy Lindsay, and Allison Russell of the roots band Po' Girl sing together. They'll be at Manhattan's performing as Birds of Chicago, their latest side project as both take time off from their working concerns: Po' Girl and JT and the Clouds.

Russell said in a phone interview that the joyous feeling that her music and that of Lindsay's delivers is the result of a natural combination of spirit and style.

"I think that we seek out each other and audiences, and we want to play music for people in order to share something and communicate something," she said. "A lot of the songs are sad, but I kind of feel that way about the first time I ever heard Bessie Smith sing on a recording. I was just kind of floored because it was raw and sad, but it was joyful at the same time."

A native of Montreal, Russell is a multi-instrumentalist -- clarinet, banjo, ukulele, guitar -- who has played roots music most of her adult life. Po' Girl has recorded five albums and toured the world relentlessly, earning critical kudos for the band's authenticity and soulful music.

She and Lindsay have collaborated on his projects, most notably his most recent solo album "Mountains/Forests," playing live together frequently. Their musical pairing is a natural evolution of their relationship. Russell's Po' Girl partner Awna Teixeira is recording her own solo album, so the band is going on hiatus until 2014.

Russell said she loves music that moves a person both physically and emotionally.

"There is that immediacy of that rhythm you can make with your own body. That has always been appealing to me. Our bodies and our voices are the first instruments and you go from there," she said. "I love a show where you get to sing along and clap along, I'm like a little kid in that way and I think most of us are."

Songs from their upcoming solo show will include new material from the unreleased album and a mix of JT and the Clouds and Po' Girl song.

For an example of how Lindsay and Russell sound together, check out this video of the song "Trampoline": bit.ly/scyqz5. (The third person on the song is Michelle McGrath, a former Toledoan who will not be performing Saturday night with the duo.)

Doors open Saturday at 7 p.m. and music starts at 7:30 with opening act Old State Line. Tickets are $12 in advance from Manhattan's, 1516 Adams St., and $15 at the door. Limited concert style seating will be provided in the Union Square Lounge.

Contact Rod Lockwood at rlockwood@theblade.com or 419-724-6159.



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