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Wednesday, July 7, 10 p.m. 1999
Showcase at Schubas

The Blacks kick off Metromix Live  
By Allison Stewart

"At this point, we have what you would call a cult following," says Danny Black, who fronts the offbeat, beyond-alternative country outfit the Blacks (performing July 7 on Metromix Live). "A lot of our fans are loner types. Sometimes they creep you out a little. They come to shows by themselves, and afterwards I'll say to them, 'Why didn't you bring your friends?' and they'll be like, 'Uh, maybe next time.'"

The Blacks hope their debut, "Dolly Horrorshow" (Bloodshot Records), will broaden their appeal somewhat, although their engagingly lurid amalgam of country, rock and cabaret certainly isn't for everyone. It doesn't help that, after building a considerable local reputation, the Blacks had to change their name after finding out there was already another band called the Black Family which, Danny points out, only released three records in twelve years, and thus wasn't making very efficient use of the name.

Danny and future wife (and upright bassist) Gina met at Lounge Ax a few years back, "and fell in love, as the story goes," says Danny. The band added guitarist/pianist/vocalist Nora O'Connor, and, after a Spinal Tap-like parade of drummers, found current drummer James Emmenegger through a newspaper ad. After the usual period of struggle and strife, the band signed to Bloodshot on the strength of a Schuba's showcase at South By Southwest, although the irony of a local label having to go to Austin to sign a local band off of a local club showcase is lost on no one.

The band recorded "Dolly Horrorshow" in nine days, with producer Eric Ambel (the Bottle Rockets, Blue Mountain), and plans to tour behind it "for as long as we can afford to," says Black. At this point, the Blacks still have day jobs--Gina is a Claymator, Danny does construction rehabbing--with schedules elastic enough to allow for touring. It helps that the Blacks are unaccountably popular down south, where they play quite often.

"Down there, they say the music is stranger than anything they've ever heard," says Black. "And the fact that we've got a beautiful six-foot tall blonde playing the upright bass gets you a little more attention."

Allison Stewart is a Chicago-based freelance writer.  

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