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Phoenix New Times
Black Is Black
By Bob Mehr

"Glam-Country": Chicago's Blacks.

When you say your band plays "bastardized punk-inflected cowboy blues," it's a mouthful. But the beauty of Chicago's Blacks is that their musical stew genuinely lives up to such a broad and ambitious label. Described by Rolling Stone as "glam-country," the band manages to combine eccentricity and showmanship with a genuine feel for traditional folk balladry, classic country and rockabilly. The campy presence of Amazon bassist Gina Black, stiletto-heeled guitar virtuoso Nora O'Connor, the frenetic swing of drummer James Emmenegger and the white-suited pompadoured cool of front man Danny Black make for a fascinating floor show. Despite its flair and onstage panache, the group doesn't resort to shtick to make its point musically -- in that respect it's closer to the Cramps than to Southern Culture on the Skids. Pseudo-trailer trash isn't the Blacks' vibe, and you're more likely to find elements of neo-classical music in the bowed solos Gina Black wrings from her upright bass.

The Blacks' Bloodshot Records debut, Dolly Horrorshow, finds the band twisting and shaping conventional melodies and rhythms with a wide pallet of sounds. Few groups could follow a Bill Monroe hymnal with a wild, trumpet-fueled romp punctuated by screams and diddly-bowed hysteria and do it convincingly. The record (produced by noted alt-country guru Eric "Roscoe" Ambel) is full of moments like that, whether it's the close harmonies of "Tortured Holiday" or the bizarre country-punk yodel of "Crazy." Either way, the Blacks never fail to provide a complete sonic and visual feast.

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