Chicago magazine gives credit where credit is due with a nice homage to Jay Bennett:
Bennett’s vintage keyboards float throughout songs like “She’s a Jar” and “Pieholden Suite,” leaving a dreamy aftertaste. His presence provides a continual commentary on the melody at hand, whether from a spooky banjo clucking (“Via Chicago”) or an instrumental pile-on that builds to an emotional storm (“My Darling”).
Interviews with Edward Burch, Bob Andrews and ex-Wilco drummer Ken Coomer shed a little more light on who Jay was and what is contributions to the band meant. My favorite bit is when Coomer says that nobody in the band even knew Jay could play piano until they were in the studio for Being There. Friends and family seem to be making a concerted effort to ensure Jay Bennett’s legacy is not bound to his portrayal in I am Trying to Break Your Heart.
I don’t care what anyone says, I miss Jay Bennett in Wilco. The albums produced by that band during his tenure remain some of my favorites by any artist and the albums released since his departure just don’t ring the same for me. I get that he and Jeff Tweedy had to part ways, but I wish it weren’t so.
So, we know that Wilco headlined the second night of Lollapalooza capping off a couple years now of ever higher profile shows and opportunities, but what’s Jay been up to? For one, he relocated his Pie Holden Suite Sound from Chicago to “the beautiful twin cities of Champaign/Urbana, IL.” In an email to fans, Bennett catches up on the last 18 months and his plans for the future, including the release of THREE albums and another collaboration with an old friend…no, not THAT old friend.
That’s right, I’ll be releasing three new records in the upcoming months – I’ve just finished writing and recording a new solo record, to be called “Kicking at the Perfumed Air.” Also, during the move I came across some half-finished material by my previous band, Titanic Love Affair. Not only did this lead to reconnecting with “the original cast” of TLA, but these songs left us wondering why they never made it on earlier albums. We’re going to change that, as we’ve now finished a whole album’s worth of “new” TLA songs. And finally, I’ll be reuniting on record with my longtime musical collaborator, Edward Burch, on a 6 song EP “Tribute to a Tribute” to Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds.
Edward Burch is everywhere in Chicago. If you’ve been out to a show that’s remotely related to the “alternative country” movement, you have seen him. Maybe singing backup with the Handsome Family. Maybe doing a solo acoustic thing in the front room at the Hideout on Monday nights. You’ve seen him.
His most high-profile gig has been his partnership with former Wilco multi-tasking wizard, Jay Bennett. The 2002 Bennett-Burch album, The Palace at 4am (Part I), got lots of press for a lot of reasons: some of them music-related, some of them due to the fact that Palace was released on the same day as Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
Since then, Bennett and Burch released a limited pressing of an odd collection of demo versions, alternate takes, and acoustic versions of all the songs from Palace (in order!), plus two John Cale covers. In addition to his work with Jay Bennett, Burch is involved with the Kennett Brothers, the Viper & His Famous Orchestra, and a duo with Wilco’s LeRoy Bach. Despite his busy schedule, Edward took the time to participate in an email interview with Glorious Noise…
Leroy Bach, Edward Burch and John Stirrat at the Hideout. March 5, 2001
Everyone has that bar that just fits. Maybe it’s only for the summer or your junior year in college, but it is exactly where you want to be on any given night. The Hideout in Chicago is that bar for me right now. The hideout has a long reputation for being a great place to see country-ish music and it is still a premier venue for club-sized concerts. But what makes the Hideout MY Place is the genuine neighborhood feel you get when you walk in the door.
A group of us made our way to the Hideout last night to see Wilco’s John Sirrat and Leroy Bach play with other local fave Edward Burch. Since Wilco is a Grammy nominated college chart fave and the patron saints of folk rock here in Chicago, I expected a smoky, packed bar and annoying frat guys, the likes of which we had at Jeff Tweedy’s final performances in the now closed and sorely missed Lounge Ax. Instead, what we got was a completely un-miced acoustic performance similar to those taking place in countless rec-rooms, college dorms and back porches across America.
As soon as we walked in we were welcomed by Bach who told us to get a beer and have a seat. It was standing room only, but just by the Hideout’s front room standards. There were maybe 30 people in attendance and the seating arrangement was quickly fixed when the affable bartender told us to go get some more stools out of the back room. We stumbled clumsily past Bach and Burch to find our seats and drag them back to the front. They waited patiently until we were comfortable before starting in on another of their old timey folk tunes from the Carter Family or Louvin Brothers. Their voices blended nicely in loose harmonies. Occasionally we’d miss some words over the chiming of Burch’s 12-string guitar, but the mood was right and I was ready for some Pabst.
PBR $1.50 bottles. “I’ll take two and save myself a trip.”
Soon, Wilco bassist John Stirrat, ambled up to the front and played a few selections from his recently released little record, “The Green Hour” from his side project The Autumn Defense. The songs were pretty with a definite 70s AM radio, singer/songwriter influence. Stirrat’s voice was a little shaky, but that was understandable given his un-miced performance and the increasing din of the patrons enjoying Pabst.
Come midnight the dread of another Tuesday at work was weighing heavy and after Burch and Bach’s second set I meandered out to my car and drove home happy to have spent another night living in Chicago.