Review: Chicago’s Acoustic Underground Presents GoodByeHome at Martyrs

I had the pleasure of witnessing a heartwarming show last night organized by Chicago’s Acoustic Underground’s Michael Teach. He, unfortunately, could not be in attendance due to some personal complications – but was there in spirit, and, thanks to GBH’s bass player, via cell phone for part of the show.

Goodbyehome is an alternative-country band that sounds similar to all the other “alt-country” bands that have been crawling out of the woodwork thanks to the underground (if not almost commercial) success of Jeff Tweedy and his band; Josh Ritter; and the ever emotionally-distraught Ryan Adams. The genre in itself can certainly be put into question – I think that “folk-country” might be a more appropriate title, but I digress. What sets GBH apart, and certainly, what set them by leaps and bounds apart over their opening act, Root Cause, was their insatiable harmonies. Also, their addition of electric guitars really pushes them up above and beyond anyone I had heard tonight – GBH teased us with a little bit of rock – but always sunk back into their Americana roots, never to push to hard for a sound that wasn’t their own.

Their front three, Jeff Brown (lead guitar), Christine Knodle (Violin) and Greg Combs (singer/rhythm guitar) have a good relationship together on stage, laughing with each other and trading harmonic high end sounds between one another while the low end stays out of the mix, carrying the tunes and chugging along almost imperceptibly with the drums.

Song by song the show went nicely, slowing down a bit near the end with the 6/8 gospel track, Dear John – but then picked up tremendously by the time their final song, Raindance, got us tapping our feet beneath the worn out chairs at Martyrs.

The three melodic leads, Jeff, Greg and Christine, sometimes sound a bit muddled when they are together and, in this reviewer’s opinion should leave a little more space for one another – don’t be afraid to drop out, strum quietly or allow the sound to drone behind whomever is taking the listener’s ear to melody. Sometimes there were so many melodies and counter melodies going on, it was difficult for me to discern which was my favorite – ie; what I should be leaving the song with?

GBH is starting to see the light; they just have yet to really crack the door wide open. They need to find a way to rise above the other acoustic based, similar sounding bands. Now don’t get me wrong; songs like Apache Hotel and Raindance have their place in my heart, and although GBH gives us all a ripping stomp through Americana, I was yearning, at least this time, to hear the sounds of a heartbroken America above the roar of a motorcycle, and not necessarily a covered wagon.


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