Which is good news for the many fans in Iowa who have been following his career. He wrapped up 2017 with a couple of shows: one at the Mill in November with a lineup that included new sidemen Matthew Bernemann on drums and Randal Davis on guitar in addition to original 90’s Backsliders band member Marty Christensen on bass. A late December show at The Octopus in Cedar Falls replaced Bernemann with longtime drummer Steve Hayes. These were both amazing shows with Bo in excellent form and clearly really enjoying himself.
Bo is playing with different band lineups and he also pulled in some deeper catalog songs for those shows, and it will be interesting to see if they stay in. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard songs like “On The Range” (from 1988’s Either Way). These have been the first shows that Bo has brought out the songs from his 2016 album Wildwood Calling. These instrumental tracks have been used to open the sets and do a fantastic job of adding some mood and atmospherics to the show.
We’re in the days of indecisive weather and confused clocks. It feels deceptively like fall in the daylight but nighttime’s dark, cold fingers close around the plants from summer extinguishing what optimistic reaching for the sun they had left. The days are shorter and even if you race home from a day at work, the dark is nipping at your heels reminding you that before long it will be settled in around you. A long winter’s guest. As you pull the last of summer’s shorts and tees from the wash– only to be banished to a drawer until the earth is warm– you wonder what you can do to stall the inevitable.
River Glen Breitbach is a member of the extensive and musical Breitbach clan from Dubuque. Performing simply as River Glen, he is a multi-instrumentalist that mixes a blend of Folk, Pop, Rock, and Hip-Hop and Friday night he’s bringing a full band to Dick’s Tap & Shake Room promising a sunny and warm respite from the impending weather. What I’ve listened to so far fits pretty well with artists like Keller Williams or Jack Johnson.
If that wasn’t enough, two of my favorite artists are opening the show.
I’ve been following St. Louis singer/songwriter Beth Bombara‘s career since the beginning and three albums and one EP’s worth of rustic and yearning Americana prove that she’s in it for the long haul and a songwriter to keep an eye on. I was excited to hear her on SiriusXM’s The Loft this summer! Her latest album Map and No Directionis a more rock-leaning record than the previous two, but shows how her songwriting fits pretty much any mold. She draws easy comparisons to Natalie Merchant, I think. I love the George Harrison-ish slide hooks in “I Tried.”
Also opening the show is Dick Prall– daytime proprietor of Dick’s Tap & Shake Room and nighttime purveyor of pristine pop as DICKIE. After a few albums as Dick Prall and The Dick Prall Band and Starch Martins, he relaunched with a new name and a self-titled biographical song cycle in 2015 which I said in my review for Little Village Magazine, “…has the introspective pop we’re used to from Prall-—the head-hanging desperation, the wistful turn-of-phrase, the hopeful wishes all delivered in a brigade of earworm-wrangling hooks.”
Maybe we can’t completely avoid the cold, but with this line up on Friday night, we can stall it a bit as we listen to three really amazing musicians bringing their art to the stage at Dick’s.
Though some would debate this, it’s my opinion that American Idol’s Season 9 in 2010 was the last season worth watching. The winning chemistry of American Idol to me was always a combination of the judges and the talent, and 2010 was the year that Paula Abdul was no longer a judge and in 2011, show creator and longtime judge Simon Cowell was gone. My wife and I– longtime followers of Idol– didn’t tune in for Season 10.. Over the nine years that we watched, there have been standouts in the talent, Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, Season Five’s edge-of-the-seat powerhouse of Chris Daughtry/ Katherine McPhee/ Kellie Pickler/ Elliott Yasmin, Jordin Sparks, David Archuleta, David Cook and Chris Allen. One of my favorites for that nine-year run was Ohio native, by way of Chicago Crystal Bowersox. Though most of the highlights of American Idol have been squarely Top 40 types, Bowersox was an honest-to-goodness songwriter who could play and sing. She, with her slightly crunchy hippy personae topped with questionable dreadlocks, came off somehow as an underdog contender that I had hoped would take the top honors, but complications related to her Type-I diabetes (of which she is a spokesperson) cost her the top spot (Though, it could be argued that taking the top spot doesn’t always help your career– I’m looking at you Ruben Studdard and David Cook).
Since Idol, Bowersox has released three albums, with her most recent full-length All That For This released in 2013 and produced by reknowned Los Lobos member and producer Steve Berlin and features guest Jakob Dylan. Notably, she also shed her dreadlocks in 2013. Her most recent release is a self-released 7-track EP titled Promises. It’s difficult to glean what her next steps will be in her career based on her website, but she’s touring quite a bit. I’m certainly interested to see her live. Check out this great performance of the Leonard Cohen classic “Hallelujah.”
Crystal Bowersox will be performing for the 2nd time at CSPS this Friday night with a small band. The show is at 8PM (the doors and box office generally open an hour before) at tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door (if there are any left). You can purchase tickets at the CSPS box office or online. Details at the Legion Arts website.
As part of the week of Grand Opening celebrations for the Brand Spankin’ New Daytrotter HQ in Davenport, Duluth, MN country blues aficionado Charlie Parr is playing a “Four O’Clock Rock” matinee show! Parr’s new album Stumpjumper made my list of “Top 20 of 2015.” Produced by another of my Top 20 recipients Phil Cook, it gives Parr’s signature boogie a much-deserved fleshing out.
The new digs for Daytrotter are a big upgrade over the old location in Rock Island– with its climate control issues and its control and live room dating back to its original use as a TV studio– but that was part of its charm, certainly. The expanded facility now has a live venue in it and I’m sure they brought some of the mojo from the old location with them. I bet that minifridge stocked with PBR is somewhere in the new space.
For the uninitiated, RAGBRAI is the “Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.” Each year thousands of bicycle riders take a week at the end of July and ride across Iowa. This has been going on for 42 years in 2015. From Lissie’s website:
I’ve always wanted to do (RAGBRAI), so I will be doing the ride in the middle of the tour. Having grown up just across the river in Illinois, Iowa is a gorgeous state that I love! So to make it a reality I’ll be going back to my roots in more ways than one. I started in music playing acoustic guitar and singing from the heart, so it’s only fitting that I sing my way back to the heartland solo! I hope that you can all join me at a show leading up to, on the ride or at one of the gigs after.
So, she’s doing a run of dates with Tyler Lyle leading up to and following RAGBRAI. What we don’t know is if she might be busting out her guitar on the ride! Even if she doesn’t, these shows promise to be really special and intimate affairs.
Along with this announcement, she teased a new song titled “Sun Keeps Risin'” which is slated for her new album which is slated for January of 2016.
Here are the dates of the solo tour with links to where to get tickets.
Nellie McKay is in a lot of ways an artist from a different time. Compared to what is generally regarded as “pop music” currently, popular music from the 50’s/60’s and even the 70’s seemed to cut a much wider swath through genres. Jazz, Rock, Country, Folk and American Songbook. In that same spirit Nellie McKay has not been content staying in one genre– even per album in most cases.
For McKay’s sixth album titled My Weekly Reader, she opted to dive into the rich catalog of 60’s pop and rock and create an album of covers that demonstrates her incredible musical chops and catalog knowledge as well as presents the songs with her unique and smart sense of subtle irony and humor. While I really appreciate her original music more, the opportunity to see her dive into covers (as she did on her album of Doris Day covers Normal as Blueberry Pie) also reveals her influences.
And I haven’t even mentioned her stints on Broadway and film!
McKay is bringing her solo show back to Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, April 28th. She was here in September of 2012 (which is where the picture above was taken). Her shows are a lot of fun– she’s a great artist, musician and wonderful singer. Her adopted stage personae at first seems a little scatterbrained, but she uses that disarming “aw-shucks” delivery to make some sharp and thoughtful commentary about everything from veganism to feminism to current politics. When she performed last time, she improvised a cute song about Iowa.
She was interviewed recently on NBC 4 in New York City about her new album:
She is a performer who continues to impress me and we are fortunate that she chooses the big stage at CSPS to bring her show. Don’t sleep on this!
Ypsilanti, Michigan folk rock band The Ragbirds are a family-affair. Fronted by Erin Zindle on vocals, violin, mandolin, accordion, banjo and percussion (whew!) she is joined by her husband, percussionist Randall Moore and her brother T.J. Zindle on guitar. The current lineup is rounded out by Loren Krantz on drums and Brennan Andes on bass guitar and percussion.
With this many members of the band playing percussion you might imagine that The Ragbirds are a polyrhythmic sort– and you’d be right. The band calls their sound an “infectious global groove”– a mix of Eastern folk, afro-cuban, Celtic and African all poured into the funky stew. It sounds like a cross between Rusted Root, Camper Van Beethoven and Edie Brickell and New Bohemians to me.
The Ragbirds will be taking over the stage at CSPS in Cedar Rapids on Sunday night at 7PM. Shaking it to the grooves of The Ragbirds would be a great way to shake off the winter cold– so you should make a point of heading down to NewBo, and while you’re down there you should check out the restaurants, book store and the Farmer’s Market before the show!
In addition to their musical endeavors, the band also conducts workshops on “Eco-Touring.” The band has a diesel Ford F-350 van converted to use waste vegetable oil– using cooking grease from local restaurants and preparing it for use in their van. They won’t be conducting a workshop in Cedar Rapids, but I’m sure they’d be happy to talk about it after the show.
Back in June, Wisconsin six-piece band PHOX opened up for six-piece Seattle band Hey Marseilles at CSPS. Hey Marseilles was gaining some critical attention at the time and were on a run of dates in support of their new album Lines We Trace which included the great single “Heart Beats.” The band asked PHOX to open for this run of shows and the show I saw at CSPS had me enthralled– lead singer Monica Martin has a beautiful voice and the whole band has an astonishing amount of talent and skill. Monica is just getting her bearings as a frontwoman, but her stage banter with the audience the band was funny and heartfelt. It’s great to see this band getting more attention and it is clear it hasn’t gone to their heads.
We are really lucky to get PHOX back at CSPS– this time as the headliner with former Cedar Falls, IA-now-Twin Cities husband and wife duo Har-di-Har— another favorite band of 2013 for me. Julie and Andrew Thoreen have put together what amounts to a full band by sharing the percussion duties with a split trap kit while they take on guitar, keyboards and bass duties as well as vocals. And, what vocals they are! Very tight harmonies sounding a lot like British Folk from the 60’s and 70’s. I reviewed their three EP’s over the last year for Little Village including their latest Hard Parent/Thick Child:
Continuing the trend of jaw-droppingly awesome shows at Codfish Hollow Barn in Maquoketa, this Friday, June 21st, it will play host to actor John C. Reilly’s non-film music endeavor John Reilly and Friends.
For the past few years Reilly has been working with some musician friends of his to bring a revue of old country and folk music of the likes of the Stanley Brothers, Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, The Everly Brothers, Claude Ely and the Delmore Brothers to name a few. With regular “Friends” sidekicks Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond and Tom Brosseau (solo and of Les Shelleys) Reilly cut two 7-inch singles on Jack White’s Third Man Records.
The band is doing a run of dates through the Midwest from June 13th to June 22nd, with a stop at the wonderful Codfish Hollow Barn in Maquoketa, IA– home of many Daytrotter.com Barnstormer shows as well as a few shows put on by the Biehls themselves. Joining Reilly, Stark and Brosseau will be Mt. Vernon, IA native Dan Bern (who headlined his own show in May), Willie Watson— formerly of Old Crow Medicine Show (OCMS’s “Wagon Wheel” has been covered by Darius Rucker and climbing the charts currently), and Sebastian Steinburg– formerly of Soul Coughing and these days a go-to bass sideman (Marc Ribot, Dixie Chicks, k. d. lang). That’ s one hell of a lineup with lots of varing backgrounds, so you can count on some pretty inspired performances!
According to Brosseau’s website, there will be copies of the Third Man Records 7-inches as well as “the official John Reilly and Friends teeshirt” at the merchandise table. Tiffany Biehl also told me about exclusive stickers with art done by Dan Bern and limited-edition posters done by the Biehl’s and sent me images of those:
John Reilly and Friends Codfish Hollow Barn Sticker
John Reilly and Friends Limited Edition Codfish Hollow Poster available at the show.
As usual, there will be camping available (with no service hookups), food vendors with soft beverages and just good old fashioned great times with other people who are there for the music. Coolers are welcome. Here is a list of what food will be available onsite:
Grilled chicken sandwiches
BBQ pulled pork sandwiches
All beef hotdogs
Brats and sauerkraut
Nachos and cheese
Beef taco nachos
Vegetarian bean nachos
POP- Mt.Dew Pepsi, Diet Pepsi,Sprite
At the time of this writing there are still tickets left, but you should expect that this show will sell out this week. Doors are at 6:30PM with the bands hitting the stage at 8PM. The tickets are $25 in advance (plus some minimal service charges).
I was interviewed in The Cedar Rapids Gazette Arts and Entertainment magazine Hoopla– click here!
Click Here to visit the Third Man Records page on John C. Reilly and purchase his two singles.
15 June 13: The Assembly at the Women’s Club of Minneapolis: Minneapolis
16 June 13: Miller Caves: Milwaukee
17 June 13: Muskegon Unity Church: Muskegon MI
18 June 13: Ramsdell Theater: Manistee MI
19 June 13: The Magic Bag: Ferndale MI
20 June 13: Radio Radio: Indianapolis
21 June 13: Codfish Hollow Barnstormers: Maquoketa
22 June 13: Old Town School of Folk: Chicago
Well, it’s been a pretty great week for acts at CSPS! The Duncan Sheik show on Thursday night was pretty damn amazing, and I found a couple of acts I want to keep an eye on– that new Alpha Rev album coming out next year will be one that I’m looking forward to.
Tonight the big stage at CSPS will be graced by Dick Prall who used to live in Iowa, but now crafts his Brit Pop-influenced Midwestern Rock from the Windy City. He’s put out a solid run of pop rock masterpieces since his first release Somewhere About Here in 1998.
This year he is kicking off a new project that is a little different than his standard album releases. He is working with Pat Sansone of Wilco and The Autumn Defense to release a series of digital singles which will culminate in a full release with bonus material next year. In an e-mail exchange with Prall he said, “We’re trying a different methodology this time around to hopefully keep folks interested and engaged on a monthly basis – that’s the theory, anyway. All the songs are being done with Pat Sansone, who digs the idea, so I’m in good company.”
If the first single “Wanted Blue” is any indication, it will be one for the “Best of” list for 2013! Prall also said that they are considering vinyl for this release! Listen for yourself and download:
Dick is bringing a band with him tonight that he describes as “drums, bass, violin, & hollow-bodied guitar put together in a sort of laid-back Buddy Holly & the Crickets meets Elvis Costello backed by Spoon sort of way.” Sounds like my kind of lineup!