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Time Travel with this wacky CD from the Ligon Brothers

February 11, 2008

This is a story with some background.

For the past few years, we've been going to a retro music event in Chicago around Xmas-time called Chris & Heather's Country Calendar Show and Record Roundup.

Heather McAdams is a famous indy cartoonist who sketches a cartoon calendar every year of classic country stars and hosts this wild event as a way to put the calendars out. She and husband Chris Ligon also used to have a vinyl country shop---and maybe will start something again soon. She also collects vintage country music film clips---and plays them at this show.

But this is the tip of the iceberg for this show.

Chicago is home to the country revival scene---hard-driving, whisky country with good singing, good lyrics and good playing. It's like punk plus Nashville only with talent, a lot of it, in every area.

The main record label for this scene is Chicago's Bloodshot Records---a longtime OYB advertiser.

So for this event the glamorous Heather gets together a dozen local bands, many of them Bloodshot acts, and has each band cover a song by a classic singer---then she plays movie footage of that singer. Chris and Heather are the MC's of the event. Chris has a great sideshow style. He plays some songs, too. His younger brother Scott, and friends, comprise the house band for the event.

Scott and his pal Casey are 60's crooner-style sweet-rock singers. In the harmonizing Beach Boys vein. Easy on the ears, indeed. Top performers. Scott has been a part of several underground Chicago cult-favorite bands.

Chris has a carnivalish, whimsical style to his music. He has a great oldtime Southern voice. And a bit of a Steve Buscemi demeanor, as one blogger notes.

Retro-country superstar Robbie Fulks also plays...and mentioned at the last one how Chris lures you into his wacky world and you can't help but start talking like him. Robbie has a wacky side, too. But "beguiling" indeed does describe the loungey stylings of Chris.

Chris and Scott played a wonderful ditty---yeah, "ditty" is a good way to describe Chris-music---about how much fun it was growing up in their house. That's my kind of song. So after the show I bought the CD ("Oh What a Day") that had the song.

This is a FIND. If you like The Shaggs or the Langley high school choir...you'll like "Oh What a Day."

Now for the time travel... Long ago in the 80's when Chris was 25 he started recording music. He got his younger sister and very young 10-year-old brother Scott to contribute to his reel-to-reel noodlings.

This CD includes a half a dozen songs from the tapes of that bygone era. It also has about 10 newer tunes interspersed that fit in well. The old stuff is hilarious and sweet. Here you have a stoner-type minstrel older teen brother trying to get his squeaky little kid brother to go along with his plans for backup vocals. With a semi-sensible middle sister thrown in for good measure. The whole artifact is capped off with a triumphant half-hour session of their youthful attempt to capture the elusive song "Poop Ghost." (I note they give Robbie credit for provoking this CD. He knew there was something special here!)

This CD is full of catchy tunes and melodies, new and old. There's a lot of creative lyrics and song development, too---in places that will surprise you. At least one song, Jingle Bells, seems recorded when someone was quite drunk---it careens off into nonsense yet its notions end up tidily, only to shoot off to into new mayhem. It's a wild ride.

The CD progresses from sweet tunes into dementia in a wonderful way, climaxing in the grand panoply of "Poop Ghost."

If you have, have had, or know kids around who are about 10 then "Poop Ghost" will be a hit, especially on the bus. But if you don't want your kids to hear secret basement recordings with some potty talk, beware. But really it's all sweet. Rated "Funny" for mild language. And "Sweet" for siblings actually getting along despite rough spots that include "Gosh darn it, I want your baby voice, c'mon!"

The "it was fun fun fun fun growing up in our house" is a classic. ("Oh what a day" and "Florida" and "tykes and tots" are also top notch.)

Anyway, Chris and Scott are heroes of Chicago country/crooning/whimsy. But their work is hard to find. They're natural stars. Restrained. Not pushers. The links I offer only show a taste and aren't totally indicative, I found.

Profile of Scott:

Profile of Calendar Show (and slam of "Oh what a day"):

Profile & Interview with Heather:

Buy downloads from Oh what a day:

The only 2 youtubes I could find:

Buy one of Chris's other CD's, probably very good:


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