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Breaking Some Shackles, Burdened by Others: The Dawn, “Waiting for the Storm”; and Jordan Danielsen, “Old Soul” PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 20 August 2014 08:52

I’ve written about four releases from Sean Ryan over the past six years – as a solo singer/songwriter, as part of Jim the Mule, and as the leader of the Dawn (and Sean Ryan & the Dawn). I’ve always liked his singing voice – a mature blend of authority, precision, and expression. But with much of his work as a solo act and bandleader I’ve found the combination of standard Americana arrangements and plain-spoken writing dully professional – not vivid enough to avoid the generic.

So the new six-track Waiting on the Storm album from the Dawn came as a pleasant surprise – in particular the expansive rocker “Bring It All Home,” a forceful jam that oozes personality and life and has a clear if winding path. An album full of similar songs would quickly become tiresome, but as a startling change-up from Ryan’s past work, it reverberates through the entire record.

 
Natural Flexibility: Los Lonely Boys, August 16 at River Roots Live PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 07 August 2014 05:57

Los Lonely Boys. Photo by Gabriella McSwann.

For the fact that Los Lonely Boys are around to headline this year’s River Roots Live festival, some people might thank God – and the trio of brothers Garza certainly does that. But bassist/singer JoJo also thanked his brother Henry’s pliability.

“I think it would’ve killed anybody else,” JoJo said of Henry’s horrific fall from a stage in February 2013. “I would have been dead. ... From the moment he fell in the hole, I thought it was completely over. ...

“We give a lot of thanks for Henry’s natural ability to be very flexible as part of the reason why he didn’t just crunch in half there.”

But Henry’s recovery has been slow. “Quite honestly,” JoJo said in a phone interview last week, “he’s not 100 percent still, and a lot of people don’t know that. ...

 
Back in the Taverns: The Fat Babies, July 31 through August 3 at the Bix Fest PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 24 July 2014 05:45

Beau Sample, the bassist and bandleader of the Fat Babies, has said he doesn’t want his Chicago-based septet to present the jazz of the 1920s as either a caricature or museum piece.

By all accounts, Sample and his bandmates have succeeded wildly – almost certainly a result of the Fat Babies balancing its performance schedule between bars and festivals.

The group has regular gigs at the Windy City’s Green Mill lounge and Honky Tonk BBQ – places where the nuances are less important than the swing. “The people who come to see us are really there to dance and drink and have fun,” Sample said in a phone interview last week. “A lot of the bands playing this stuff [early jazz] don’t have the opportunity to play for those crowds. ... The dancers are a big influence on what we do.”

The Fat Babies, he noted, are “trying to put it [old-time jazz] back in the taverns, where it came from. ... Basically, we’re doing what people have always done – which is just playing in bars for people drinking and having a good time.”

 
An Excellent Foundation: The River Monks, July 2 at Rozz-Tox PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 26 June 2014 06:18

The River Monks. Photo by Bruce Bales.

The band’s moniker comes from the likely source of the Des Moines River’s name (the French Rivière des Moines – “river of the monks”), and TinyMixTapes.com declared that “the River Monks might just be Iowa. The five-part vocal harmonies swirl outward like wind across the fields, while the band’s traditional folk instrumentation is given Iowa’s unexpectedly progressive touch, leaving you with something entirely recognizable, yet completely new.”

Its new album is titled Home Is the House, invoking a sense of physical place.

And many thousands of people in Iowa know the band – even if they don’t realize it. The River Monks composed the theme music for Iowa Public Radio’s two talk shows.

The irony is that the band – playing Rozz-Tox on July 2 – no longer has a home. While the group originated in Des Moines, some of the sextet’s members have been scattered about – to Nashville, to Omaha, Nebraska, and soon to California.

So the River Monks’ seven-week summer tour, singer/songwriter Ryan Stier said in a phone interview last week, is a bid for longevity. “We’ve been really forced to figure out: If the band’s going to continue, then we need to set some groundwork.”

 
Thinking Inside the Box: Catfish & the Bottlemen Perform a Communion Barnstormer, June 19 at Codfish Hollow Barn PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 12 June 2014 07:58

Van McCann, singer and guitarist for the United Kingdom’s Catfish & the Bottlemen, has a strange relationship with the song “Homesick.”

“I thought it was the worst one of the batch we did ... when we first started recording for Communion,” he said, referring to the label/tour founded by Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett. “Since then, it’s become my favorite.”

What changed, McCann said, was that other people liked it. And therein lies a great deal of the charm of Catfish & the Bottlemen, a band described by the UK’s The Guardian as “deeply old-fashioned – and unfashionable.”

McCann doesn’t disagree with that assessment – whether it means an indifference toward appearance or, in a larger sense, a band more in love with the idea of playing for as many people as possible than selling lots of records or making artistic statements. When the quartet performs a Communion/Daytrotter show at Maquoketa’s Codfish Hollow Barn on June 19, expect no-frills rock-and-roll with one goal: to connect with the audience.

 
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