Chicago roots rockers Souled American pioneered the alternative country movement of the early '90s before the music boasted either a name or a fan following. Even as kindred spirits like Uncle Tupelo began making commercial inroads, Souled American slipped through the cracks following the demise of its record label, and still today the band's true influence on a successive generation of bands remains sorely undervalued. Singer/guitarist Chris Grigoroff and singer/bassist Joe Anducci formed Souled American in 1987 after first collaborating in the Normal, IL, group the Uptown Rulers; guitarist Scott Tuma and drummer Jamey Barnard completed the lineup, which quickly honed an expansive, compellingly idiosyncratic approach to rock that reduced the idiom to its basic elements -- country, folk, and bluegrass chief among them -- then reassembled the parts to forge an otherworldly music quite unlike anything produced by the band's contemporaries. In 1988 Souled American signed to Rough Trade to issue its cult classic debut, Fe, arguably their most difficult and far-ranging effort. Flubber appeared a year later and was supported by a tour opening for Camper Van Beethoven. But shortly after the release of 1990's psychedelic Around the Horn -- an album comprised largely of covers -- the U.S. division of Rough Trade went bankrupt, stranding Souled American without a label and effectively removing their records from stores. The band limped on, issuing 1992's Sonny under Rough Trade's European operations, but few copies reached U.S. shores, and as their fan base dwindled, Barnard left the lineup to focus on his family; the remaining trio opted not to replace him, recording 1994's spare, haunting Frozen sans percussion. The dirge-like Notes Campfire followed three years later and remains Souled American's final new release to date. However, the band still performs live on occasion in its native Windy City, and after years out of print, its four Rough Trade LPs are again available via the tUMULt label. Rock critic Camden Joy also published -Fifty Posters About Souled American, a deeply personal book charting his long obsession with the group. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi

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