Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter, Marissa Nadler, Orso Critic's Choice Early Warnings (Music) Recommended Soundboard

When: Fri., Sept. 19, 10 p.m. 2008

This brainchild of Phil Spirito, veteran of Rex, Him, and Loftus, is an oddball member of the extended Califone family, which is really saying something considering that band’s level of idiosyncrasy. The way Spirito likes to work is by creating skeletons of songs (he calls them “shells”) on a banjo or weird little four-string guitar, then passing them along to other musicians to flesh out. Orso’s new Ask Your Neighbor (Contraphonic) was three years in the making and features more than a dozen contributors, including Tim Rutili, Jim Becker, and Ben Massarella of Califone, Nick Macri of the Zincs, and Libby Reed of Coat, who’s been a regular member of Orso since 2004. With a pawn-shop jumble of instruments—violin, cello, euphonium, organ, clarinet, vibraphone, and too many more to list—these musicians animate Spirito’s compositions, evoking decades’ worth of Americana as heard through a lone train passenger’s dusty window. —Monica Kendrick

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