Vic Chesnutt Band, Clare & the Reasons | Lincoln Hall | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Vic Chesnutt Band, Clare & the Reasons Recommended Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: Thu., Nov. 5, 9 p.m. 2009

If there's a more harrowing rock song than "Coward," the tune that opens At the Cut (Constellation), the new album by Vic Chesnutt, I haven't heard it. Backed by members of Montreal art-rock juggernauts Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Silver Mt. Zion along with Fugazi's Guy Picciotto—as he is on most of the album—the singer is shadowed by a downright orchestral arrangement. Gradually massing and unmassing electric guitars, violin, and upright bass, punctuated by David Payant's spare but thunderous drumming, convey a powerful mix of dread and despair as Chesnutt's elliptical lyrics, peppered with quotes from novelists Frank Norris and Joseph Roth, allude to the danger of pushing a coward too far. Nothing else on the record quite matches this track for gut-punch impact, but At the Cut is still probably Chesnutt's finest album—better even than a previous effort with these musicians, North Star Deserter (2007), and his classic 1998 collaboration with Lambchop, The Salesman and Bernadette. Lighthearted ditties are usually part of his repertoire too—but not here. From the deceptively uplifting-sounding "Flirted With You All My Life"—an imagined conversation with Death—to the somber solo number "When the Bottom Fell Out," he unflinchingly confronts fear, disappointment, and pain. His eight-member touring band includes most of the musicians from the album, including Picciotto, bassist Thierry Amar, and violinist Jessica Moss. —Peter Margasak

Price: $20, $18 in advance

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