"What makes this compilation so compelling, and what gives it that unmistakable Bloodshot stamp, is that those moments can live comfortably side by side with spare rootsy gems like Jess McIntosh’s “The Sweetness,” and the soulful power punk of Bethany Thomas and Tawny Newsome’s “Dinosaur.” Too Late to Pray is a reminder that Bloodshot is still one of the most fascinating and rich sources for music 25 years on..."
"An excellent storyteller with an impressively direct, matter of fact way of looking at our world."
-Laura Land (Chicago Crowd Surfer)
Joybird is Chicago fiddler, multi-instrumentalist, visual artist, and arts educator Jess McIntosh. Her songs "bare the intimacy of a letter to a friend," called "music that dreams and heightens and travels, music that lands with gentle force to disrupt the day." Growing up the daughter of a traveling hospice chaplain, playing violin for strangers in their final days of life, then pursuing a career in social work before she rerouted as a professional musician and violin teacher, Jess finds a strong majority of her songs call on the single most unifying human experience we know - death - and our living relationships to it. The band beside her is a mostly 4-piece cast, trading banjos, guitars, fiddle, drums, bass & keys, most recently adding alto saxophone and concert flute into the mix. Since taking its name in 2017 Joybird has evolved collaboratively, though it's core members Aaron Smith (Horseshoe Bender, Honest John, Growler) and Bill Harris (Four Letter Words, Je’raf) have written and played together since 2014. Rotating fourth and fifth members include Emily Nott, Sara Leginsky and more.
For someone who has spent more than ten years collaborating with and supporting other artists, it’s not surprising that McIntosh’s debut album, Long Time Exhaling, (2016) inspired audiences and musical connections alike. It started out as just a song or two recorded in the studio of experimental jazz percussionist, Bill Harris, who also provided percussion. Then it was one more song, and another, until a full album was on the horizon. The need for a bass brought in Aaron Smith and the three found a groove. From those roots grew an open-hearted rendering of well-read yet true-to-self folk ballads, old-time-inspired instrumentals, and plain sound experiments released under Jess McIntosh. Covering the grief of moving to a new city, ended relationships, and love lost, the songs on this debut bare the intimacy of a letter to a friend, noting each day’s particulars—the way a knife cuts through butter, the absence of a beloved’s jacket. At times playful, at times immersed in longing, the album is fiercely hopeful and deeply communal.“ (Abigail Zimmer, girls their tongues). If all the world is a motherless child, we will fill up every glass,” Jess sings in the album’s title track. “We will sing to all our fears as the years go on to pass and we’ll wake up taller than the questions we have asked.”
Joybird’s 2019 release, Landing, extends a broad focus on the communities we live in, the voices that define our nation, the joy of those who came before us. These songs prove a healing balm for burned-out activists, tired hearts, anyone who has tried and failed. Jess sings with gentle confidence, with a heart that does not soften as she compares “not good enough” and “should’ve tried harder” to dust in the corners of her mind. McIntosh’s growth as a songwriter accompanied Joybird's collective expansion as well. This album features double fiddles, (add Dan Andree, The Henhouse Prowlers), dobro & telecaster from Steve Doyle (The Hoyle Brothers), three-part female harmonies from Sara Leginsky (Glass Mountain) and Emily Nott, clarinet from Cass Pautler, and french horn and trumpet from Anna S. Jacobson. Landing highlights the fluidity of a group thats core strength lies in love and respect for one another, built in bars and living rooms, on stages and in the back seats, whose mission according to Jess, is "to create just about any thing we can to draw people closer to hearing ourselves in each other."