As I write the world is turning white. Some of us shovel, some of us prepare missives in our hovel abovel the Carpe, sitting in a chair, wrapped in mohair, the thermostat set at COLD.

We had a great December: the New Pioneers, Larry Penn, the annual Mulvey marathon, the Merry Horde, The Devil in the Outhouse, Mike Dowling & Randy Sabien, all being unaffected by the vagaries of weather, wonderful shows with wonderful audiences, creating holiday cheer enough to make the days lengthen.

Fewer shows in January, but worthy of your attention. Friday night the 13th (8:30) we have the debut performance of JT Nero and Allison Russell, who come highly recommended by many, including Peter Mulvey.

For several years Russell and Nero’s respective bands, Po’ Girl and JT and the Clouds, have collaborated extensively, but in 2011’s Mountains/Forests, released under the JT Nero banner, they tapped into the true, bewitching power of their voices together on an entire record. After a much buzzed about performance at the Kate Wolf Memorial Fest in 2011, they decided to get folks more of the same, and quick. Their first proper duo record, Birds of Chicago, Volume 1, is set for release in January, 2012.

Nero’s fractured country-soul voice wrapped in Russell’s silver and gold tones is a fine thing. Not too perfect, not at all saccharine, you’ll hear echoes of mountain gospel, street corner doo-wop, classic soul. Accompanied by just a banjo and a guitar, it’s chilling. Fired by a full band, it’s a full tilt revival. 

There’s not much Allison Russell can’t sing. She’s got a bit of the speakeasy chanteuse in her, a bit of old R & B, but with a delicacy and clarity of phrasing that Ma Carter or Loretta Lynn would surely approve of. She plays banjo, ukelele, guitar, and clarinet. She’s also a top shelf whistler. She writes gorgeous, unpredicatble songs, and makes other people’s – often Nero’s – tunes her own with startling ease.

JT Nero is a strange and distinct new American songwriter – he lists Mark Twain and Sam Cooke among his biggest songwriting influences. He is a poet of the everyday and the absurd, the lonely and the ever hopeful. When backed by the Clouds he’s a rock n’ roll preacher — with Russell and on his own, he digs deeper into the nuances of his work. The Chicago Tribune recently tabbed him as an “artist on the verge of breaking big.” If “breaking big” allows him to broaden his collection of single batch American bourbons at his home bar in Chicago, he’s all for that happening.

Saturday the 14th (8:00) will be local disembodied musicians Los Zombies, with Sonny Blood & Friends opening. Have you ever woken up from a wonderful dream and tried to hold onto its memory all day? Los Zombies’ debut album is something like that. Tote the Note was recorded in an honest to goodness Nashville studio where the Café Carpe’s own prodigal son cut his latest album (but don’t associate the undead with Satchel, please!). Guzzo Pinc, Mongoose Milford, Captain Cosmo, and the Tall Guy will be bringing their musical stylings, along with the new cd. The Zombies will begin a regular 3rd Thursday of most months gig starting in February.

Friday January 20th (8:30) the seldom-seen local discombobulated musician Bill Camplin will by joined by very capable guitarist Jason Klagstad. Sample their brand of magic on YouTube.

Saturday night January 21st (8:00) the New Pioneers will bluegrass it up all night beginning at 8 pm. They will resume their regular second Thursday of most months schedule in February.

February and the months beyond are filled with many possibilities for music lovers- Cliff Eberhardt, Sammy Llanas (formerly of the Bodeans), Small Potatoes, poetry and music with Obvious Dog & Cathryn Coffel, maybe Bill Staines, Garnet Rogers, Steve Forbert, the Krause Family Band, Claudia Schmidt, maybe Carrie Elkin & Danny Schmidt, Mare Edstrom & Kenn Fox, Jim Post and Randy Sabien, Malcolm Holcombe, Dan Navarro, LJ Booth, and Jeffrey Foucault.

Anybody like the idea of trying to do a Moth-like thing here?

As to your business, thanks, ‘preciate it.

Don’t say I never told you nothin’.