The Tillers

FitzGerald's Presents

The Tillers

Al Scorch

Wed, September 20, 2017

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

Fitzgerald's Nightclub

Berwyn, IL

$10

This event is 21 and over

The Tillers
The Tillers
The Tillers got their start in August 2007 when they started thumping around with some banjos and guitars and a big wooden bass. Their earliest gigs were for coins and burritos on the city's famous Ludlow Street in the district of Clifton. The songs they picked were mostly older than their grandparents. Some came from Woody Guthrie, some were southern blues laments, and many were anonymous relics of Appalachian woods, churches, riverboats, railroads, prairies, and coal mines. Their look didn't fit the stereotype. They were clearly recovering punk rockers with roots in city's west side punk rock and hardcore scene. The punk influence gave their sound a distinctive bite, setting them apart from most other folk acts- a hard-driving percussive strum and stomp that brought new pulse and vinegar to some very old songs. But their musical range soon proved itself as they floated from hard-tackle thumping to tender graceful melody, all the while topped by Oberst and Geil's clear tenor harmonies. They began picking up weekly gigs around the city's bar scene. It didn't take long before their signature treatment of classic folk songs became the preferred versions of Cincinnati locals.
Their audiences swelled, growing into an assortment of grey-haired mechanics, neo-hippies, farmers, punkers, professors, and random strays all stomping, clapping, singing, and belting outbursts of “John Henry!” “Darlin' Corey!” Ever since, the band has come to each show with the same energy. They are magnetic showmen, mature musicians, and colorful storytellers. The Tillers have since won over Cincinnati's bar and festival scene, and launching tours with tireless momentum. They were awarded CityBeat Magazine's Cincinnati Entertainment Award for best Folk and Americana act in 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014 & 2015. Their relentless gigging has taken them throughout the East coast, the Midwest and West, the Appalachian south and to the UK and Ireland opening for the St.Louis crooner, Pokey LaFarge. In the summer of 2009, veteran NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw featured the Tillers on a documentary about US Route 50. Brokaw showcased the group's song “There is Road (Route 50)” as a testimony to the highway's role as a connective tissue of the nation.
Musically, the band wears many hats. Their sound has proven to be an appropriate fit with a wide range of musical styles- traditional folk, bluegrass, jazz, punk rock and anything else they might run into. They have shared the stage with a broad swath of national touring acts, ranging from renowned folk legends such as Doc Watson, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Guy Clark, Country Joe McDonald, Jerry Douglas, Iris Dement, Pokey LaFarge and The Carolina Chocolate Drops to rambunctious rock daredevils like the Legendary Shack Shakers. Always moving, the Tillers continue to enter new territory. Their musical growth can be heard through the scape of their many releases, 2008's debut record Ludlow Street Rag, 2010's By The Signs, 2011's Wild Hog in the Woods, 2012's Live from the Historic Southgate House, 2013's Hand On The Plow and many more bootleg releases. The band's lineup has also taken new shape. In February 2010, long-time bassist Jason Soudrette fondly parted ways with the group, being replaced by Aaron Geil, brother of guitarist Sean. In 2015 the band added fiddler Joe Macheret (Joe's Truck Stop/Urban Pioneers) to the ranks. Recalibrating has not slowed their pace. They continue to plot their travels around the map, electrifying new places and making new friends wherever they go. From place to place, they carry with them more instruments, new songs, and funnier stories. They are Cincinnati's traveling minstrels. Expect to hear from them soon.
Al Scorch
Al Scorch
“Stormy, husky, brawling, City of Big Shoulders.” – from “Chicago” by Carl Sandburg

Al Scorch grew up in Chicago, with its storied history of corrupt power at the top and righteous fighters and big dreamers at the bottom. From the town that gave the world characters like Studs Terkel, Upton Sinclair, and the anarchists in Bughouse Square, Scorch adds his voice to the choir with the enthusiasm and charisma of a Maxwell Street preacher. He eyes the prize of that ever-elusive promised land that’s worth scrapping for, wherever or whatever it may be. With a stentorian bullhorn of a voice, he exhorts, not with a holy book in his hand, but a banjo and guitar. He’s a messenger and a conduit, a believer that a soul-stirring song will march you forward.

Balanced on wedges of punk, old-time string band, American and European folk, and soulful balladry, Al is an entertainer, road warrior, storyteller, and one helluva musician. His second album and Bloodshot debut Circle Round the Signs is built on a sonic framework sharing an intersection with the Bad Livers’ lawless next-gen take on traditional country & bluegrass, and Black Flag’s burn-it-all-down revolt and breakneck tempos. From the train-hopping tale of “Pennsylvania Turnpike” – updating steel rails to concrete ribbons – to the shout-along, late-night lament of “Insomnia” (“I toss and I turn in my bed every night/ I’m sober but my mind’s as high as a kite”), the aural dexterity is thrilling.

Woody Guthrie’s “Slipknot” gets a complex, Western swing cum prog-grass treatment, led by the angular fiddling of Felipe Tobar, that would make acoustic thrash godfathers Split Lip Rayfield grin demonically. And “Want One” blazes down the dirt track with a Stanley Brothers fireball energy driven by Scorch’s clawhammer banjoing, and the it’s-safe-to-laugh-now adventure of meeting an intensely inebriated fan while busking across the country.

Al Scorch and the Country Soul Ensemble

But Scorch is far more than lightning for lightning’s sake. Through 10 songs of high wire musicianship, debilitating despair, wild-eyed hope, and sharpelbowed views of social (in)justice, he deftly maintains a balance of precise touch and texture, pop catchiness and frenetic intensity. That Minutemen inspired “jam econo” vibe embracing the freedom of art and community as long as you’re working hard and bringing your friends along for the ride?… Yeah, that’s here too.

He shows a keen ear for the Mekons’ trans-Atlantic roots and marries it to the Avett Brothers’ big stage sound on “Lost At Sea.” Likewise, there is depth in the song’s lyrics during the cliffhanging, reallife narrative of a best friend almost dying when the HMS Bounty sank in Hurricane Sandy:

“When I heard of the wreck my heart left my chest/ tears came rolling down/ the same sun shone through the window/ I thought of a world without you around”

DIY show shakedowns parallel a down-and-out-on-Clout-Street message (“Every bossman is on another bossman’s take/ There ain’t no free man except the one you make”) on the vaudeville-via-Eastern European klezmer door-kicker “Everybody Out.” With its bittersweet imagery and mournful harmonies, “Lonesome Low” goes beyond the blue grass and into the deep woods. While the elegiac french horn in “Poverty Draft” wouldn’t sound out of place if it was played in a WWI trench, nor would its message of the poor being the tools of war (“The fight for freedom pays more than minimum wage”).

A punk rock banjo-wielding John Prine or Billy Bragg, Al Scorch writes for the everyperson. Through his acrobatically poetic politics, hopeful tales of love lost (“Love After Death”), or cathartic takes on urban chaos (“City Lullaby”), he pens rowdy campfire stories, calls for action, and draws the epic from the ordinary. Celebrate, right a wrong, or find your path and go for it. It’s heavy shit, but so is life.
Venue Information:
Fitzgerald's Nightclub
6615 Roosevelt Road
Berwyn, IL, 60402
http://www.fitzgeraldsnightclub.com/