A combo featuring five of Chicago's best and most versatile musicians, the Flat Five started as a side project that played out only once a year, but has since matured into a celebrated band that records and tours, albeit at their own deliberate pace.
The Flat Five began when guitarist and keyboardist Scott Ligon, a skilled instrumentalist who played with a number of groups on the Chicago club circuit, crossed paths with Kelly Hogan, a gifted vocalist who was a member of the Jody Grind and toured as a backing vocalist with Neko Case and the Decemberists, as well as pursuing a solo career.
The two began playing occasional shows at a club in Chicago, the Hideout, and when they were invited to open for the Blind Boys of Alabama, they decided they wanted another vocalist. Nora O'Connor, a former member of the alt-country band the Blacks who has also worked with Mavis Staples, Andrew Bird, Iron and Wine, and the New Pornographers, joined them and the trio became known as the Lamentations. Ligon began playing with a country group called the Western Elstons, and he struck up a friendship with their bass player, Casey McDonough, who was soon invited to join the combo. (Ligon and McDonough would soon share the stage in yet another band when Terry Adams invited them to join his long-running, genre-spanning combo NRBQ.) Drummer Gerald Dowd, whose résumé included collaborations with Robbie Fulks, Edith Frost, and Chris Mills, came aboard as drummer, and the group adopted the name the Flat Five, performing a broad spectrum of pop, jazz, R&B, and standards, all with stellar harmonies.
The Flat Five played their first official gig at the Hideout in 2007, and in their first three years, they only performed one a year, in time for the holidays. In time, the Flat Five started ramping up their schedule to three or four shows a year, eventually playing periodic residencies at the Hideout and a few other favored venues in Chicago. After several years, Dowd dropped out of the group, and Alex Hall (one of Ligon's bandmates in the Western Elstons, and drummer for JD McPherson, Pokey LaFarge, and the jazz combo the Fat Babies) took his place in the lineup. The Flat Five became something of an institution in Chicago, and in 2014 they began recording an album, dedicated to the songs of Chicago-based composer Chris Ligon (who is also Scott's brother). Recorded at Alex Hall's Reliable Music studio, the Flat Five's first album, It's a World of Love and Hope, was released by Bloodshot Records in October 2016. The following October, they delivered the single "The Raven," featuring lyrics inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's classic poem. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi