Because alternative country is rooted in punk rock, alt-country acts tend to place a higher premium on original material than their Nashville cousins. But on her new solo album, Cowboy Sally's Twilight Laments...for Lost Buckaroos (Bloodshot), Mekons vocalist Sally Timms celebrates the long tradition of singer as stylist. Although she wrote three of the tunes with Jon Langford, most of her efforts go into making the songs of others--including Chicagoans like the Handsome Family, Robbie Fulks, and Jeff Tweedy--her own. Though you'd never guess it from her potty-mouthed stage banter, Timms sings in a pure, angelic voice that's at least as well suited for torch as it is for twang. On the numerous waltzes, it drifts from measure to measure like a feather floating to the ground, but she wraps it with equal ease around Fulks's dark "In Bristol Town One Bright Day" and the elegant western swing of Guy Lawrence's "Dreaming Cowboy." Timms has dabbled in country regularly over the years, with the Mekons and particularly on her 1997 odds-and-ends EP Cowboy Sally, but the new album makes all precedents sound half-assed. In her interpretations of everything from Jill Sobule's "Rock Me to Sleep" to Johnny Cash's "Cry Cry Cry," the ethereal sweetness of her tone is cut with the hint of some unbearable sadness that words alone could never convey. Andrew Bird--who plays on the album, along with Fulks, Langford, Harry Trumfio of the Pulsars, Jon Rauhouse of the Grievous Angels, Tom Ray of Devil in a Woodpile, John Herndon of Tortoise, Andon Davis of Trigger Gospel, and others--headlines. Friday, 10 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-3160. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Susan Anderson.