Amalea Tshilds’s new Love on the Ground turns French poetry into harmony-rich Americana | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Amalea Tshilds’s new Love on the Ground turns French poetry into harmony-rich Americana


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Amalea Tshilds is a familiar face to anyone who’s ever enjoyed a meal at Logan Square’s beloved Lula Cafe, but in the past few years she’s also raised her profile as a singer-songwriter. It’s a decided shift from running the neighborhood restaurant she’s co-owned for more than two decades, but her musical pursuits are hardly new. Tshilds has trafficked in warm, homespun Americana for years, singing and strumming around town with Girls of the Golden West and Pollyanna Vox (and before that with Jim Becker’s Paulina Hollers). More recently she’s taken the spotlight with her own music—dulcet and comforting, it’s rooted in folk and country traditions and grounded by the caress of her voice. Tshilds’s second full-length, Love on the Ground, is a thoughtful collection of carefully rendered love songs that soothe like a balm. It’s a more personal album than Painted Tiles, her 2006 debut—by her own description, it’s “confident in its vulnerability”—and on a handful of tunes it uses borrowed lyrics for inspiration. The title track pulls from Paul Verlaine’s poem “L’Amour par Terre,” which Tshilds says she was drawn to for its “beautiful imagery of a statue of Cupid blown to the ground,” she explains. If that visual is severe, Tshilds’s tender voice is disarming, and she elegantly contrasts the words with her gentle delivery. She draws on another French poet, Charles Baudelaire, on the haunting yet seductive “Sisina,” layering her vocals into a moody tapestry framed by Sam Wagster’s swooning pedal-steel guitar. The poetry of St. Francis of Assisi guides album highlight “Lemon Orchard,” which billows with gauzy harmonies that circle the cooling refrain “I have to wring out the light when I get home.” To celebrate her new self-release, Tshilds is joined by her band, which includes Wagster, Elise Bergman, Gillian Lisee, and Joe Adamik, as well as album guests Becker, Douglas McCombs, Marydee Reynolds and Holly Stevens. Local song man Tim Kaiser opens, joined by his Axis: Sova bandmate Jeremy Freeze as well as Josh Johannpeter, Dan Browning, Kent Lambert, and Jeanine O’Toole.   v

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