Andy Jenkins

Andy Jenkins

Dogs at Large

Thu, May 23, 2019

9:00 pm

The Hideout

Chicago, IL

$10

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Andy Jenkins
Andy Jenkins
From the front porches, alleys, and rivers of Richmond, Virginia, comes Andy Jenkins carrying a crisp, newly cut album, Sweet Bunch. Hatched in the tradition of Southern culture–unhurried in his art, unworried by external demands, yet weirdly ahead of the curve by the time he arrives–Andy is a distinctive and joyously idiosyncratic songwriting talent developed for years in obscurity. Sweet Bunch springs into the world fully-formed, the work of a confident, timeless as well as contemporary singer-songwriter, offering beautiful and basic melodies with lyrics exploring the fluidity between the banal and the sublime. His work feels natural, complete within itself, untrained musically but adherent to its own forms and intricate in its own ways. Spring peepers line the path; the author feeds her peacocks strutting among vines and ruins; a photographer waits for the right light and color in frame. Each song presents a rich, new tableau of sound, glowing worlds to discover, rooted in an unnamed sense of place.

Andy could have found no better seedbed for this sensibility to flower than Spacebomb, a label known for offering high musicianship outside of the predictabilities of New York, Nashville, and Los Angeles. Produced by Matthew E. White, Sweet Bunch was recorded in three magical days of flow-state, the drums, bass, keys, and guitars all live and nothing to regret. The source of this musical surety lies above all with Jenkins’ songwriting–natural and effortless as the glide of a swan or sailboat–matched in spirit and strength by the sweet bunch in the studio. The Spacebomb crew ran hard into midnight with a few ringers along for the ride, and a very full chorus of voices shining bright behind Andy’s relaxed, self-assured singing, gently insistent as it dips and soars at every measure. Contentment in life and patience with craft is announced, almost as credo, on the opening track “Hazel Woods”:

Man, I would love to finish the book but I still have pages and pages of lines. Time sends out a withering look, but I pay it no mind. God, it’s a drag to figure it out, but what else can I do? Nothing whatever, but to read for my pleasure, as the light passes through…

Jenkins sends his warm words buoyed on cool streams of melody, to tell the greater world that Virginia has become, once again, a musical frontier. He sits at a crossroads of modernism, sensitivity and decision, with the expansiveness and musical drawl of Big Star, the bounce of Warren Zevon, and the curly, perfectly-carved melodies of Kevin Ayers. His lyrics have a tendency to stick in the mind, not straightforward storytelling, but always delivering a kind of payoff or reward. Their surrealism, closer to the origin of that term, sees the world in dualities, layered images and dreams. On the topic of love, he is soul-bearing yet light, focused outward, singing conversationally as if from driver to passenger remarking on the passing views. In a way, all of his songs are outdoor songs. Each paints a wide and wild landscape, the mood of a sun setting on a damn good day spent among friends and favored creatures. Sitting high on the hog, like a bump on a log, getting lost in the goodness of the earth.
Dogs at Large
Dogs at Large
Dogs at Large is the band and collective of musicians revolving around Chicago-based vocalist, guitarist, keyboardist, and songwriter Sam Pirruccello. For years, he’s been using music to explore and make sense of the worlds that exist inside and around us. Delusions of Paradise is his most fully realized vision yet.
Pirruccello has an ear for the sonic palette of psychedelic americana, and his compositions sit nicely beside those of his influences like Gram Parsons, Judee Sill, The Band, and Jackson Browne. But don’t be fooled: Pirruccello is no revivalist, and you wouldn’t mistake a Dogs at Large tune for one released before the turn of the millenium. The themes he explores are distinctively modern, with a protagonist in one song suffering from “paranoid psychosis stemming from being too anxiously involved in social media” - a feeling I think we all know too well.
Though he says that his diagnosis with a mood disorder and a “feeling of general despair” influenced the songs on Delusions of Paradise, it’s a disarmingly beautiful and comforting record. Nowhere is this juxtaposition more striking than on standout track “All Day”, about which Pirruccello says “I think people should embrace failure more often and recognize when they’ve failed.” The first lyrics are “Getting fucked up all day / shouting at a TV til the dawn,” and the lyrics don’t get more hopeful from there. The song is a slow build, and before you know it, a majestic coda has appeared: “I’ve come so far to be let down again,” he sings over a towering cushion of slide guitar and plucked arpeggios, an admission of defeat that plays like a kind of quiet triumph. It makes embracing failure feel like a warm hug from an old friend.
Delusions of Paradise was recorded completely live at Shirk Studios, aside from select vocal and piano overdubs. Pirruccello cites a desire to capture the live sound of his band as the impetus for this pared back approach. And given room to breathe, his band shines. Adam Gilmour, Jamie Yanda, and Aaron Turney (on bass, guitar, and drums respectively) expertly lay the foundations for these songs. But it’s the clever addition of slide guitarist Steve Malito (also of Chicago band Bike Cops) that lends the band its distinct tone. Throughout the record, slide guitar is beautifully employed to add pastoral hooks, melodic counterpoint, and color to the songs.
Throughout the variety of topics and sounds covered on the record, something about Sam’s approach to music always conjures a connection to nature, in a way that’s hard to explain. Perhaps it’s channeled through Sam’s day job as a prairie restorationist with a deep knowledge of botany and a love for the natural world. Or maybe it’s more closely tied to Sam’s desire for total honesty in his songs: “I don’t want to sing any songs that I don’t mean. My approach to songwriting is really subconscious, and if I want to write about something specific I kind of have to sneak up on it.”
On Delusions of Paradise, Sam has written songs that unfold naturally, at their own pace: his choruses don’t pound you over the head with their arrival, and the record flows steadily from end to end. The songs pass by like landmarks observed from a canoe on a river, ancient things seen from a striking new perspective.
Venue Information:
The Hideout
1354 W. Wabansia Ave
Chicago, IL, 60642
http://www.hideoutchicago.com