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Building to Moments: Decker, April 20 at Rozz-Tox PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Tuesday, 15 April 2014 16:00

Brandon Decker. Photo courtesy Ashley Wintermute.

The band Decker calls its sound “psychedelic desert folk,” and each of those words carries roughly equal weight.

The folk influence is a carry-over from earlier incarnations of the band. Before its fourth album – last year’s Slider – leader Brandon Decker wrote the songs and brought people in to round them out. “I didn’t feel they were really musical,” he said in a phone interview last week. Rather, they were vehicles to say something.

But when the band performs at Rozz-Tox on April 20, Decker will be emphasizing the other two words. In its current form as a four-piece, the folk leanings are somewhat obscured by the wide-open space reflecting its home base of Sedona, Arizona, and the spaciness of psychedelic rock. (The band stylizes its name as “decker.”, but for readability I’m ignoring that.)

On Slider and the epic “Cellars” (from the upcoming Patsy EP), there’s a comfortable balance between direct simplicity and airy, patient exploration. Instead of being dense in any given moment, the songs wander purposefully, collecting detail to achieve their fullness.

Managing Mahler Magnificently: The Quad City Symphony, April 5 at the Adler Theatre PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Frederick Morden   
Friday, 11 April 2014 09:32

From an Adler Theatre stage filled with more than 200 musicians, the Quad City Symphony forcefully premiered Gustav Mahler’s monumental Symphony No. 3 on April 5. Moving from the dissonance of uncertainty to the transcendental climatic moments of harmonic resolution, the concert was abundant in gravitas, contrasts, and drama that revealed a thorough artistic vision from Music Director and Conductor Mark Russell Smith and included a valuable collaborative process with other area musical organizations.

"Companion" Companion: The Bucktown Revue, April 18 at the Nighswander Theatre PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Mike Schulz   
Thursday, 10 April 2014 10:41

The Bucktown RevueFor pianist Jonathan Turner, “It’s a really unique kind of entertainment experience in the area. There isn’t really anything like it.”

For performer Korah Winn, “It’s kind of like if you take the best play you’ve ever been in, with the best cast, with the best audience, and you get to do that once every month.”

Producer/writer/musician Mike Romkey, however, has a slightly different take: “It’s kind of like a local Prairie Home Companion ... but not in a way that would get us sued.”

“You Cannot Let Up”: Bedroom Shrine, “No Déjà Vu”; April 5 at RIBCO PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Tuesday, 01 April 2014 16:29

Bedroom ShrineFor all of about six seconds, the Quad Cities band Bedroom Shrine’s new album No Déjà Vu seems content to set a mood.

The first sound on “Brown Recluse” is the whirring of a tape machine, whose unsteadiness makes the opening notes of acoustic guitar tremble plaintively.

But before that old-time folk vibe can register, the wind chimes tinkle softly, leading to some gentle feedback that builds to the simultaneous entrance (at the 19-second mark) of hand claps and electric slide guitar. Those two elements pull against each other, the hand claps establishing a pleasant groove with the acoustic guitar while the slide concisely articulates its grudge.

The instrumental is clearly meant as a table-setter, but it illustrates that Bedroom Shrine has no interest in dawdling. At all of 85 seconds, the track musically sketches out the band’s Facebook blurb of “rock ’n’ roll gets lonesome” and scurries off.

That’s the basic method of the album, whose 12 songs run a total of 32 minutes. That by itself means nothing, but it relates to both the album’s charm and its shortcoming: The vivid, sharply drawn songs leave you wanting more (good!), but they also feel like sketches that would be even better given the time and space to grow into more-mature form (less good!). It’s telling that the only two songs that run more than three minutes – “You’re Gonna Lose” and the title track – feel most like they’ve reached the ends of their natural lives.

Hail to the Queen: "Queen of the Blues" Shemekia Copeland, March 28 at St. Ambrose University PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Mike Schulz   
Wednesday, 19 March 2014 06:00

Shemekia CopelandAs the daughter of the late, Grammy Award-winning blues guitarist Johnny Copeland, and herself the winner of six Blues Music Awards, it would be safe to describe 34-year-old vocalist Shemekia Copeland as blues-music royalty. In 2012, during a performance at the Chicago Blues Festival, she even became royalty (of a sort), when Copeland was presented with Koko Taylor’s tiara and officially proclaimed “Queen of the Blues” by the City of Chicago.

So when you see the track listings for Copeland’s most recent CD – 2012’s 33 1/3 – and notice that they include covers of Randy Weeks’ country hit “Can’t Let Go,” Bob Dylan’s folk hit “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” and Sam Cooke’s R&B hit “Ain’t That Good News,” you might think the album was designed as the singer’s chance to, at least momentarily, escape the blues. Copeland, however, would respectfully disagree.

“I never want to get away from the blues,” she says during our recent phone interview promoting her March 28 performance at St. Ambrose University’s Galvin Fine Arts Center. “That’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m a blues singer and proud. Extremely proud. But I just feel that blues is ... . Blues is the root of everything. I mean, what is country but blues with a twang? What is rock ’n’ roll but blues with loud guitars?

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