When: Mon., March 28, 10 p.m. 2016
Alongside the Mountain Goats and Refrigerator, John Davis was part of a 90s lo-fi scene bound by the Shrimper label. His wispy solo recordings were undeniably rarefied: a typical song might use just a few guitar notes or drum beats to punctuate a half-sung, half-recited verse about a lover’s glance. But then the Folk Implosion, his groove-music lark with Sebadoh’s Lou Barlow, had a fluke winning single with “Natural One,” from the Kids soundtrack. The pressures of being an unintentional one-hit wonder persuaded Davis to walk away from music at the turn of the century (he ultimately got a job as a public school teacher in North Carolina). But in 2013 he released Spare Parts (Shrimper), his first solo record in 16 years. It’s as carefully constructed as Davis’s early stuff was dashed off, so while arrangements are sparse, the space between notes registers as grandly as orchestration on a classic countrypolitan production. Davis stashes a few surprises in those spaces that stop the action like a play within a play—“Blood Feud,” for instance, features a drum solo that sounds like Milford Graves meeting Ikue Mori. He’s always had the gift of freezing a moment, but now he’s placing those snapshots inside narratives as sweeping as the songs’ arrangements. Davis is currently working on a new, Kickstarter-financed record that promises to be more electric and assertive, with songs about the politics of food production and the prison industry. For his first appearance in Chicago in 17 years he’ll be accompanied by the Cicadas, a band of North Carolinians that includes old Shrimper mate and Mountain Goat Peter Hughes on bass.