Chicago music spotlight: Flo Estes and Dolly Varden
I've been listening to "Jolly on the Inside" — the debut album of septuagenarian Chicago labor organizer and songwriter Flo Estes — on repeat for the last three months.
Driving the news: Estes opens Saturday at Space in Evanston for alt-country treasure Dolly Varden, a quintet led by Estes' songwriting teacher Steve Dawson.
Backstory: For years the organizer and teacher performed at union meetings and coffeeshop open mics, but her songs "were just for me," Estes told reporter Mark Guarino in a WBEZ story in April.
- That changed when she took a songwriting class with Dawson at The Old Town School of Folk Music and presented so many amazing tunes that he urged her to record an album at his Wicker Park studio.
- I caught her record release show last spring at Jarvis Square Pottery in Rogers Park and was blown away.
Her sound: Think Iris DeMent and Jewel meet Aimee Mann and Amy Rigby.
- The collection crescendos with a tale of 1960s interracial love in "At The Bottom Of The Ocean" and the heartbreaking "Jolly on the Inside."
If you go: Tickets are $17-$20.
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