IN THE COUNTRY | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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These Norwegians usually get classified as jazz, but on their excellent second album, Losing Stones, Collecting Bones (Rune Grammofon), it's clear they're not concerned with fitting in to any particular category. Pianist Morten Qvenlid (one half of Susanna and the Magical Orchestra) writes gorgeous poppy melodies, spreading out notes in the style of one of his primary influences, Paul Bley, while bassist Roger Arntzen and drummer Pal Hausken back him up with steady, slow-moving grooves. The parts are generally fixed, adhering to a loose verse-chorus structure, but all three find room to improvise: Qvenlid delivers quite a few emotionally wrenching solos and Arntzen and Hausken subtly tweak their patterns with every pass. Swedish singer Stefan Sundstrom makes a cameo on "Everyone Live Their Life," belting out vocals befitting a rock ballad, while New York guitarist Marc Ribot turns the meditative "Torch-Fishing" into a devastating slow burner. In the Country are pretty faithful to the recorded versions of their songs in concert, but no matter how familiar you are with the material, you'll always discover something new. The Late Severa Wires headline and Mykel Boyd opens. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $7.

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