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Birds of Chicago [Archetypes & Troubadours Series]

“With echoes of deep gospel in Russell’s voice as she sings over a mix of electric guitar, resonant piano, and percussion… at once uplifting and a little melancholy.” Wall Street Journal

OA logo8:00 PM—The Oxford American magazine is excited to welcome Birds of Chicago to South on Main, with special guest Smokey & The Mirror! This is the fourth and final show in their 2017-18 Archetypes & Troubadours Series. Doors open at 6:00 PM, with dinner and drinks available for purchase at that time. The series is made possible in part by presenting sponsors Chris Harkins of Raymond James and J. Mark & Christy Davis.

J. Mark & Christy Davis logoAdditional season partners include UCA College of Fine Arts & Communication, Acura, Stella Boyle Smith Trust, Downtown Little Rock Partnership, Stacy Hamilton of Pulaski Heights Realty, Ben E. Keith Foods Mid-South Division, Arkansas Arts Council, ACANSA Arts Festival, Capital Hotel, Rosen Music Company, and Music Inspirations.

Chris Harkins of Raymond James logoTickets are available via Metrotix.com (or by calling 800-293-5949), and are $25 (General Admission), $32 (Reserved), and $34 (Premium Reserved). Please take a look at this very important ticketing and seating information before purchasing your tickets (view reserved seating chart). Full season ticket pricing and options are also available in a consolidated format, here.


Birds of Chicago have been riding a swell of good mojo in the Americana world since their inception in late 2012. With their new album, Love in Wartime (due out May 4, 2018), they are set to both confirm that roots world buzz, and break on through to a wider audience across the world.

Recorded in Chicago against a backdrop of bewilderment, deep-divide and dread, Love in Wartime is a rock and roll suite with a cinematic sweep. Co-produced by Nero and Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars), it evokes epic efforts of the ’60s and ’70s, with love as the undeniable through-line. As Russell puts it, "Any act of love is an act of bravery. These songs are snapshots of covenants, big and small, of trust and understanding. We want to give people some good news, and we want them to be able to dance when they hear it."

When BOC released its last album, the Joe Henry produced Real Midnight, in 2016, critics scrambled to find the right terminology to describe the deep lyricism, gut-punch singing and fevered musicality….“Secular gospel” was one phrase that caught some traction. That fervor is evident in Love and Wartime as well: “Roll Away the heavy stone/roll away the heavy hours/roll on in the summer moon/who’s alive who’s alive who’s alive? “ The invitation is joyous, but urgent … call it “secular gospel,” or call it what they used to call poetry intoned over roots music mash-ups: rock n roll. The Birds consider themselves a rock and roll band first and foremost, and Love in Wartime doesn’t leave any doubt about that.

Built around the chemistry and fire between Allison Russell and JT Nero, the band has included a core band of empathetic assassins since it took to the road full time in 2013. Russell and Nero played with different bands in the mid-aughts (Po’ Girl and JT & the Clouds) before finding their way to each other. Nero found himself a transcendent vocal muse in Russell (a powerful writer in her own right) and the band honed its chops on the road, playing 200 shows a year between 2013-17. All that shaping and sharpening, over so many miles, led them back to Chicago’s Electrical Audio in January of 2017, to begin recording.

Smokey & the Mirror is husband and wife duo Bryan and Bernice Hembree. The Hembrees spent seven years as members of the folk trio 3 Penny Acre, but have branched out with Smokey & the Mirror to express their rock and pop influences. Echoes of Buddy Holly, The Indigo Girls, and Bruce Hornsby are all evident. Building upon the critical success of 3 Penny Acre, Bryan and Bernice leaned back towards their early rock, country, and R&B influences to create Smokey & the Mirror. The Hembrees are also the founders and annual organizers of the Fayetteville Roots Festival (Arkansas).