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AMERICANA | Peter Margasak
When it came time to record his new album, This Is Your Night (Clang!), Chicago oddball and veteran musician Chris Ligon invited friends over, so that the session doubled as a small party. Someone brought a carrot cake, but it was hardly the only thing the partygoers consumed. "When we woke up in the morning," Ligon says, "there was icing all over the sofa."
You might figure Ligon was blasted too, the way he fires off dopey jokes ("What do you call the nutsack of a custodian? The janitals!") and banters bizarrely between songs. ("Do worms have ears? . . . I yelled at a worm today and he ignored me, so I guess he doesn't. I don't know what I was yelling about. I'm usually nice to worms.") But he's actually just a goofball who'd never let self-consciousness or decorum get in the way of a good time.
This Is Your Night is the first album to feature the Problems, Ligon's sporadic backing group (here they're a four-piece), and they bring out the nonchalant craft in his music. His multi-instrumentalist brother Scott (a member of NRBQ) and fellow multi-instrumentalist Casey McDonough provide dead-on harmonies and seamless rhythmic support, undergirded by drummer Alex Hall and bassist Sharon Rutledge, and they're almost enough to distract you from how twisted the tunes are. Almost. "She's only five / But she knows how to drive / She drives me crazy," Ligon croons on "She's Only Five." "I write songs that first and foremost I like to hear myself play," he says. "I don't ever intentionally write things to offend anyone. There are some songs of mine where I say 'goddamn' that I'm not proud of."
Ligon will celebrate the album's release with the full Problems lineup (a rarity live) at FitzGerald's SideBar on Fri 11/4. The show will also include his wife, Heather McAdams (a longtime Reader cartoonist), who'll screen 16-millimeter films from her extensive collection.