Pinetop Seven | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader
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Pinetop Seven

In the two years between Pinetop Seven's second album, Rigging the Top Lights, and last year's Bringing Home the Last Great Strike (both on Truckstop) cofounder Charles Kim left the band to focus on his own Sinister Luck Ensemble. The haunting moods he evoked on guitar and pedal steel were key components of Pinetop's sound, complementing and tugging on the melancholy, twangy singing of bandleader Darren Richard. The latest album features lots of unusual instrumental colors--dolorous clarinet, mournful strings, lonesome vibes, atmospheric tape loops, and some that aren't so easy to identify--and they sound more of a piece than before, but that's not always a good thing: the band's older work tended toward a kitchen-sink eclecticism that, while it could sometimes hamper the flow, kept the music surprising. Kim's pedal steel accents in particular often arrived out of the blue, pushing Richard's fragile warble into the sublime. Though Bringing Home the Last Great Strike is undeniably beautiful, it has few such ecstatic moments. The music is still archetypally cinematic, its billowy textures, wistful melodies, and constricted attack evoking everything from windswept plains to moonless nights to dilapidated towns, but it occasionally seems like nothing's happening in the foreground; while Richard's lyrics hint at a story now and then, more often than not they're as impressionistic as the instrumentation. Since the record was released, both bassist Ryan Hembrey and part-time percussionist Jason Adasiewicz have also left the band; for this rare gig the lineup will include cellist Melissa Bach, drummer Ned Folkerth, bassist Andy Rader, guitarist Mack Hagood, and trumpeter Nate Walcott. Friday, June 15, 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508. The Sinister Luck Ensemble plays the following night at the same venue.

PETER MARGASAK

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