Week in Pop: Blue of Noon, Cotillon, Gosh!, Sidewalk Chalk

Sjimon Gompers

A quick convenience store run with Jordan Corso of Cotillon; photographed by Laura Lynn Petrick.

Sidewalk Chalk

Stepping along with the inspiring ensemble Sidewalk Chalk; photographed courtesy of Yaro Photography.

Available today from the deep groove house of Ropeadope Records, Chicago institution Sidewalk Chalk released their fourth album that embraces the bloom & inspiration to rise up despite any & all harsh conditions. The art of pushing back against the harshest weather is illustrated on a full-length produced by Robert “Sput” Searight titled An Orchid is Born that orchestrates hymns for today’s tumultuous times that holds tight to the spirit of unity, acceptance, identity, respect & love triumphing over domestic/foreign/global injustices. A full-length that spans through the three movements of The Hope, The Loss & The Birth—the cycles of life’s schemes are illustrated with an impassioned spirit & hearts that affix their eyes on the world that they both know too well & an enlightened construct of a society they desire to live in.

Sidewalk Chalk uphold a torch for all of today, tomorrow & yesterday’s heroes & visionaries that seek a more beautiful & just world. The mighty crew of emcee Rico Sisney, vocalist Maggie Vagle, keyboardist Charlie Coffeen, bassist Josh Rosen, percussionist Jerrel Johnson, with the big brass horn section of Sam Trump & David Ben-Porat bring together their most expansive & all-inclusive visions & talents together on Orchid to remind us all of the natural beauty that blooms out from the seeds that blossom outward from beneath the surface. An Orchid is Born begins with “Infinite Growth” as Rico introduces the instinctive evolution of the self while offering up prayers of thanksgiving in a curtain rising number decorated like a cinematic movie opening. Sidewalk Chalk takes their conscious message back to the 40 acres & a mule basics of broken promises that finds the collective breaking the silence off modern day heartbreaks with a power-play that turns the tables with fervent purposes, open hearts & inspired, enlightened minds. Notions of time & patience are a recurring motif that reappears throughout the album heard on “Take the Time” that focuses on the importance of setting aside schedules for those that matter the most as “The Sitcom” dovetails beautifully that showcases that the collective could score theme music for all tomorrow’s television shows & situation comedies/dramas/etc. Thoughts of “being stuck in a house, not a home” are expressed on “Trapped” that finds Rico ruminating on the bonds & ties that bind that make one feel stuck in a situation they can’t break from. Madison McFerrin joins Sidwalk Chalk on the vignette “The Prayer” that sends out a dove to shoo away the shadows that is followed up with the entire collective bringing the big time stepping guns on “We Burn You Down” where the group discards the need to make amends but rather pleads with the apathetic & despondent populous of the world to get proactive. Hopes are questioned on the inquisitive survey of “Will We”, the urgent imperative & earnest heart heard on sleepy interlude of “Tell Me Now” that then plunges deep down into the uncompromising depths of “Dig” that implores all downtrodden to dig themselves out of whatever quicksand they might be in to fight another day.

Anxious hearts & earnest pleas for the most rudimentary of human understanding are depicted on “A Suite for Black Lives” that sends out a prayer to lift up all of the fallen to the outstretched arms of the sky. Maggie & Rico’s duet breaks through the veil of complicit shadows & silence for an immediate call to action that channels escapist knee-jerk reactions to a call for real conscious action to take a stand against indiscriminate & our nation’s long-standing rash of racially motivated murders by authoritative figures & bigoted civilians. The nightmare of reality is given the outro of “Winterlude” that whispers “wake up” kindly while “Alright” dreams of better days & era to hopefully arrive sooner than later with an arrangements that exudes genuine jubilation. The cycle of the album runs full circle on “Bloom Again” that offers up more thanks for the new day & all associative blessings & gifts while keeping that inspired & romantic momentum in motion on “How” ft. Chris Turner, that leads to the final piano-guided number “The Epilogue” that completes the burgeoning sprout & bloom of An Orchid is Born. From here Sidewalk Chalk provides a wealth of paradigms & globally minded postulations for you to ponder long after the record ceases it’s spin.

Chicago’s merchants of enlightened consciousness—Sidewalk Chalk; press photo courtesy of Yaro Photography.

The entire Sidewalk Chalk collective shared the following exclusive introductory statement about the new album:

An Orchid Is Born is something that we’re truly proud of. It’s taken us along time to get to this point and the journey has been hard on all of us—it still is. We’ve been through a lot together and all of these songs reflect that. There are songs about love and loss and death and politics and race…all things that effect us every single day in different ways. Internally, two of our original members left the band after our last album, our second drummer quit the band a week after recording this one, and our current drummer was in a devastating car accident a month after that. We don’t feel sorry for ourselves for any of those things, but it does drive home the importance of what we do and how committed we are to seeing this thing through, if nothing else than just to prove it to ourselves that we can do it. At the same time, all of these other glorious things have happened to all of us. Folks have gotten married to wonderful people, moved across the country to be with their partners, and grown in so many other ways. All of that joy and growth is on the record too.

Musically, the album is dense and challenging. Bringing on Sput to produce the album was a game-changer. Beyond the fact that he is a genius and one of the most incredible musicians on the planet, just having someone with fresh ears listening to these songs for the first time, taking them apart and putting them back together again, brought each song to life. It can be hard, or impossible, to do that when you’ve been touring with the songs, or have seen them go through five or six different phases in the writing process—to detach yourself from what the song is supposed to be and find what it should be. Sput did that. He really brought out the best in all of us as musicians and carved out the best versions of these songs. With all of that packed into the album, we’re just excited to give An Orchid Is Born to the world and let people take from it what they want, or what they might need in these trying times.

Catching up with Sidewalk Chalk; courtesy of Yaro Photography.

Also behold The Jack Blanket animated video for Sidewalk Chalk’s “Dig” delivers carton episodes paired to the group’s big tower of pure boisterous power. The track spells out the realer than life story about an innocent young boy gunned down by an officer, illustrating a host of perspectives that exhibit the reasons that perpetuate vicious cycles. As the all too familiar events unfold, Sidewalk Chalk exhibits their most mammoth sized arrangement that demands your attention to meditate on the bars that exhibit a hyper-dose of reality.

Sidewalk Chalk’s An Orchid is Born is available now from Ropeadope Records.

Catch the Chicago collective on the following summer tour dates:

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