Clare Burson, Dinosaur Feathers | Beauty Bar | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Clare Burson, Dinosaur Feathers Soundboard Recommended Critics' Picks

When: Sat., Dec. 11, 7 p.m. 2010

To create the beautifully austere folk-rock songs on her recent Silver and Ash (Rounder), Clare Burson spent several years traveling—Lithuania, Germany, Latvia, Ukraine—and talking to anyone she could find who was even remotely connected to her family. The album was inspired by the life story of her maternal grandmother, who fled Germany the morning of Kristallnacht in 1938, but according to a recent profile in the New Yorker, Burson also used her trips abroad to research the provenance of a piece of cheese that had been in her family since the early 1890s. Her paternal great-grandfather received it as a farewell gift when he left Lithuania to work in South Africa, but he never ate it, and it became an heirloom that Burson inherited when her paternal grandmother died in 2009. That devotion to piecing together complex human stories serves Burson well in her songs: though the album booklet includes three old, grainy black-and-white photos of family members from Europe, her lyrics evoke interpersonal relationships and private histories sharply enough to hit home without an anchor in any specific place or time. The setting of "The World Turns on a Dime" is never described more precisely than "a big city," and Burson's vignettes of people suddenly forced to abandon their cherished plans make no mention of fleeing the Holocaust—like so many of her consistently inventive songs, it works because it turns historical events into something that listeners in other situations and eras can effortlessly inhabit. Her pretty melodies, which sound no more dated than her lyrics, are backed by gentle acoustic guitar parts embroidered by Mark Spencer's tasteful electric leads; Burson's touring band is Spencer, bassist Andy Cotton, and drummer Kristin Mueller. Dinosaur Feathers open. —Peter Margasak

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