Like a colorful mural brightening up a large block of otherwise drab cement, the music of Chicago’s Sidewalk Chalk explodes in a fusion of sounds and styles that’s as surprising as it is kaleidoscopic. The band’s two lead vocalists channel, respectively, socially conscious hip-hop (MC Rico Sisney) and sultry R&B (singer Maggie Vagle), and the quartet of musicians sharing the stage with them bring brassy jazz inflections and a feel for retro soul into the mix. Sidewalk Chalk’s most recent album, An Orchid Is Born, was released last month and funded via Kickstarter; it’s a sprawling, three-movement piece that explores everything from artistic fulfillment to police brutality. And like the band itself, it’s never predictable.
— Nathan Weinbender