Too Late to Pray: Defiant Chicago Roots
Deluxe LP is limited edition silver & turquoise 180-gram double vinyl with gatefold (limited to 500). Standard LP is 180-gram black double vinyl with gatefold. Includes digital download. Pressed locally at Smashed Plastic Record Press.
CD includes 12-page booklet.
Our 25th anniversary release! 22 Chicago artists running the spectrum of classic country, bluegrass, rockabilly, folk, and rock-n-roll! All never-before-released tracks!
Featuring Robbie Fulks, The Handsome Family, Kelly Hogan, Jon Langford's Hillbilly Lovechild (with Steve Albini), Brendan Kelly (of The Lawrence Arms), ROOKIE, Big Sadie, Half Gringa, and more!
Robbie Fulks, Freakwater, Jon Langford’s Hillbilly Lovechild (featuring Steve Albini), and the The Handsome Family return in resplendent form from their contributions on For A Life of Sin and maintain their unchallenged status as guardians of the traditional guard. Other featured artists are just as well-regarded in their accomplished tenure and we are now fortunate enough to release some of their exceptional music: Tammi Savoy, The Hoyle Brothers, Brendan Kelly, Lawrence Peters, and The Western Elstons. Some we have worked with before in other forms (Bethany Thomas & Tawny Newsome of Jon Langford’s Four Lost Souls, Joybird’s Jess McIntosh); some have interned and worked at Bloodshot (The Dyes, Kelly Hogan); others are more recent trailblazers of the scene and are driving it in exciting, new directions (ROOKIE, Wild Earp, Big Sadie, David Quinn, The Family Gold, Sima Cunningham of OHMME, Saluda Moonlighters, Los Gallos).
Too Late To Pray is one big Chicago family affair.
[Stunning album artwork by Jon Langford]
For the uninitiated and out-of-towners, get to know the 22 Chicago artists and songs on this release:
Wild Earp & The Free For Alls "The Last Honky Tonk in Chicago": Perhaps Chicago’s rowdiest outlaw country gang. With their response to Buck Owens's "Close Up the Honky Tonks,” they give gratitude to the Sunday two-step matinee at the Empty Bottle. The message is inspired by the resurgence of traditional country music following the closure of some local honky tonks.
Tammi Savoy and the Chris Casello Combo "If It's News to You": This resident retro garage-soul howler—backed by one of the most heralded globe-trotting roots outfits—reaches for the rafters while covering the Little Esther's hit from 1957.
Jon Langford’s Hillbilly Lovechild "I Am a Big Town": A reunion of Langford's country-punk collective Hillbilly Lovechild, seldom heard since their appearance on For a Life of Sin in 1994. The unlikely group features Steve Albini, Tony Maimone, and John Szymanski (Four Lost Souls).
Half Gringa "Wearing White": Izzy Olive is a leading voice in the high-minded, spirit-forward indie-folk scene. “Wearing White” is a fine specimen of the genre, with its swooning fiddle, echo-laden Telecaster, and Olive’s stunning vocals.
Brendan Kelly and the Wandering Birds "Lay Me Down": Kelly, of storied punk band The Lawrence Arms, is a fixture on the stage and behind the bar in town. Here he performs a growling, smokey, bar rock rendition of Loretta Lynn & Willie Nelson’s “Lay Me Down” with his side-band The Wandering Birds.
The Family Gold "The Sun Is Going Down": Torchbearers of freewheelin’, old timey American music—an amalgam of country, hillbilly, and ragtime. This is a high-speed drinking song tailor-made for the Midwestern saloon, eliciting visions of bottles flying and dancers on the tables.
Big Sadie "You Never Told Me": A modern fixture at The Hideout is this revered bluegrass-folk group. The original song is representative of the band’s blissful harmonies, airtight songwriting, and knack for storytelling.
ROOKIE "Head Over Heels": The new-school southern rock, guitar-hero party band takes on a fuzzed-out, swampy, T-Rexified version of the beloved new wave classic from Tears For Fears.
The Dyes "Liza Jane": Cramps-and-Flat Duo Jets-fearing garage power trio spins a sleazy, lo-fi psychobilly take on a pop standard that became David Bowie’s first recorded single.
Robbie Fulks "Lonely Ain't Hardly Alive": The foremost roots music dignitary of the city and one of our most renowned songwriters. “Lonely Ain’t Hardly Alive” is an original bluegrass ballad for the lonesome-hearted and represents the other end of the spectrum from his fast-paced debut ditty that appeared on For a Life of Sin.
Freakwater "Sway": The longtime beloved Chicago/Kentucky-affected lefty folk heroes organically bring the Carter family back to life in this lilting banjo-dusted take on the Rolling Stones staple “Sway”.
David Quinn "Long Time Gone": Quinn, with his hot-sh*t band of West Side players, is a cosmic country-rock arbiter teaching the scene some vibrant new dance steps. The original song is fit for a Southern California rock revue led by Gram Parsons.
The Hoyle Brothers "A Little Bit of Buck": The Empty Bottle’s hard honky tonk house band of nearly two decades is known for outlaw and dancehall covers, but here present a two-steppin’ original longing for the days of country heroes being played in the clubs along State Street.
Bethany Thomas & Tawny Newsome "Dinosaur": These two renaissance women can be spotted in every theater, comedy club, and live room in town. They co-wrote this door-busting song recalling the ‘90s golden era of local roots-inflected indie rock.
Sima Cunningham "Weeds and Daisies": One half of beloved local noise-folkies OHMME, Cunningham is among the city’s go-to collaborators for everyone from Chance the Rapper to Twin Peaks. The tune showcases the skyscraper dynamics of her songwriting and arranging prowess.
The Lawrence Peters Outfit "I Wrote You a Song": The city’s favorite snare-drummin’ honky tonk crooner with a stripped-down twangy blues number recorded in one take at Dale Watson’s studio in Memphis, TN.
Kelly Hogan "Gotta Have My Baby Back": A longtime Chicago resident artist-vocalist and Bloodshot staple, who—in addition to a solo career and performing with The Flat Five—is a gun-for-hire singing backup for the likes of Mavis Staples, Decemberists, Neko Case, and more. This is a Floyd Tillman cover sung in the key of Patsy Cline, backed by Joel Paterson (Devil in a Woodpile, The Western Elstons) and Scott Ligon (The Flat Five).
The Saluda Moonlighters "Honky Tonkin' in the Moonlight": The flashiest western swing band in town, led by ubiquitous retro rockabilly diva Bailey Dee. “Honky Tonkin’ in the Moonlight” was borne from the storied barndance scene that is being resurrected at venues like Thalia Hall and Berwyn’s FitzGerald’s.
Los Gallos "Yeah Yeah Yeah": The Norteño & Tex-Mex roots-rockers bring a ruckus with their loose and energetic lo-fi sound, incorporating a dancing drumbeat and breakneck guitar hook. Party music in their signature "Chi-Mex" sound.
Joybird "The Sweetness": Old Town School of Folk Music’s foremost fiddle luminary and local go-to session player Jess McIntosh with her indie-bluegrass band on a fluttering, feel-good folk number.
The Western Elstons "Toast That Lie": The harmonizing honky tonk supergroup—comprised of drummer-about-town Alex Hall, local guitar icon Joel Paterson, and The Flat Five’s and NRBQ’s Scott Ligon and Casey McDonough—performs every Wednesday at Andersonville’s Simon’s. Here they play a swingin’ number written by Scott’s ingenious organist brother Chris Ligon.
The Handsome Family "Tower of Song": The longtime gothic country duo, who first appeared on For a Life of Sin, is now residing in the desert and puts an appropriately Spaghetti-Western spin on Leonard Cohen’s ode to the craft “Tower of Song”.