Mary Gauthier & Ray Wylie Hubbard
The Mill – Aug. 23 at 8 p.m. ($22 advance, $25 door)
Singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier is often praised for the emotional honesty and stripped-down poignancy that her music delivers. While it may be true that she is an incredibly talented folk singer, it is equally important to note that Gauthier is also a badass. Over the course of her nearly 20-year music career the New Orleans native has sung openly about her life experiences which include drinking way too hard, spending stints in jails and halfway houses, running away with strippers, living with drag queens and growing up gay in a conservative, southern family. As a performer she projects a rare combination of frank vulnerability and unflappable coolness, all while looking incredibly sharp to boot. Tom Waits listed her alongside Elvis as one of his favorite artists on an Australian radio show, and she used to own a Cajun restaurant. Need I say more?
Joining Gauthier will be Texas singer-songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard, who is also a badass. He is best known for writing the song “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother,” made popular by recording artist Jerry Jeff Walker in 1973. My personal Hubbard favorite however is “Screw you, We’re from Texas.” Like Gauthier, Hubbard is a talented artist who has channeled personal struggles and hard living into well-crafted songs. You can see them perform up close and personal at The Mill.
The Lonely Wild w/ Roadkill Ghost Choir
The Mill – Aug. 27 at 9 p.m. ($10 advance, $12 door)
On Aug. 27, The Mill will be filled with the sounds of eerie folk rock and lots of percussion crescendos as L.A.-based The Lonely Wild takes the stage. The band has gained an increased following after their first album The Sun as it Comes was released earlier this year. With songs that combine a little bit of twang, tambourines, echoed vocals and dramatic swells, The Lonely Wild builds something that appeals to the starry-eyed, pearl-snap-shirt wearing, cowboy-romantic in all of us. This show will provide the perfect excuse for donning boots in the summertime. If you enjoy bands like Lord Huron, Okkervil River or Great Lake Swimmers, then you are sure to be blown away by these indie folk up-and-comers.
Florida’s Roadkill Ghost Choir will be opening up the show with a more flannelled take on the eerie folk rock genre. Their song “Drifter” would provide a perfect accompaniment for a long night’s drive on an open highway through the middle of nowhere, perhaps after committing a non-violent crime. Plus, they have an awesome name. The night promises to filed with whiskey, regrets and great music.
Birds of Chicago
The Yacht Club – Aug. 28 at 8 p.m. ($10)
If you are a fan of Americana, folk and any music that can be described as “down home,” the last weeks of the Iowa City summer will feel like a dream come true. Rounding out this wave of folk troubadours are singer, songwriter duo Birds of Chicago, a.k.a. J.T. Nero and Allison Russell. After releasing their debut, self-titled album last year and touring with Bay Area artist Sean Hayes, the two have been making a name for themselves amongst folk circles across the country.
The Birds of Chicago sound incorporates a mix of vocal harmonies showcased in the foreground with an eclectic mix of instruments, including clarinets and accordions, layered throughout. Between the revolving door of contributing musicians and the laid back quirkiness of the core duo, Birds of Chicago has cultivated a family-band feel in the best of possible ways.
My first exposure to them came at last year’s SXSW, where they performed their signature stripped-down, roots music in the most appropriate venue that I can imagine: an idyllic wood porch out in the middle of the Texas hill country. Though not quite as pastoral a setting, they will be performing in Iowa City at the Yacht Club on Aug. 28 to an all ages crowd, which is great if you are looking to enjoy some American folk music with a slightly less degenerate vibe.
Rebecca Robinson is a streetwise grad student, an unrepentant Texan, an amateur UFO enthusiast and a co-host of the Fuzz Fix on KRUI. For more info you can go to thefuzzfix.com.