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NOVEMBER 21, 2006
One to Watch: Cracklin Moth

Cracklin The idea of a cracklin moth conjures images of friends huddled around a campfire, kickin' back on a warm summer night. Beers strewn about, constant laughter fills the air. Someone pulls out a guitar and starts strumming, laughter subsides and attention is focused. People huddle closer, smile, faces burning from the fire's warm glow. Eyes sparkle. Singing gets louder, chills spread up your body. Friends huddle around a campfire, loving life on warm summer night.

This is what Chicago's Cracklin Moth sounds like ... to me. Five guys from disparate backgrounds who all share the love of good storytelling and great music and create a warm, welcome environment when they play. Whether they were raised on Dylan, the Dead and Johnny Cash makes no difference. Their music says otherwise. Lead singer Matt Ammerman's songwriting has the depth of character not found by many emerging artists today. From start to finish, he weaves a story that pulls you in. But it's the music that holds your focus.

With tight-as-hell gorgeously flowing pedal steel, Rocco Labriola guides the band through each track, holding the candle to lead their path while Shawn Rios' drums create the heartbeat that allows the band to breathe. You're hard pressed to find Cracklin Moth's progressive Americana in a city like Chicago, which is so rock and pop focused these days, but it's refreshing -- and welcome -- that someone is doing it, and doing it as well as they are. It's exciting that Wilco's Illinois roots are once again moving outward and producing young bands like this. There's a similarity between Cracklin Moth and other alt-country acts like Tweedy's and the Jayhawks -- maybe it's the down-home country feel or perhaps the incredible harmony. The music has that feel-good edge that, midway through any song, you find yourself tapping your feet -- and you just can't stop. And why? Sure, it sounds good -- but you can relate to every single song.

It always amazes me when I hear bands like this that aren't signed to a label. Seeing them tonight at Schubas in the opening slot before Kunek and the Bon Savants, they not only held their own, but pretty much took top prize. Their music is what drives their set -- not gimmicks or antics. Just pure, straightforward musicianship. And I thank god for that.

The band is currently recording a new batch of songs for an EP to be released sometime in early '07, but their last, Redbird, is available. However, after hearing a batch of new songs tonight, I feel like the song that best reps their sound is "Special." And I was just emailed a couple new tracks, which Ammerman demoed at home.

Listen to Cracklin Moth:


Forever Song

Other Life Forms

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