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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.

 
Fearlessly All in: Lewis Knudsen, “Joy, Pain, Love, Songs.”; June 5 at the Redstone Room PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 28 May 2014 10:19

Last year, Quad Cities-based singer/songwriter Lewis Knudsen decided to give up substitute-teaching to devote himself full-time to music. Lots of musicians make a similar leap, but few of them commit to it as fearlessly and smartly as Knudsen has.

He performed at open mics and got gigs wherever he could – restaurants, bars, wineries, nursing homes, birthday parties, company parties.

He set out to write and record a new song a week in 2013, a project that ended up generating 40 tracks (all of them available on his Web site at LewisKnudsen.com/songs-from-2013). For the uncharitable who think Knudsen was a slacker for falling short of his goal, the song-a-week project was waylaid by a three-week tour of Europe through the Germany-based Songs & Whispers organization.

He assembled a band and professionally recorded the self-released album Joy, Pain, Love, Songs. – whose debut he’ll be marking with a June 5 show at the Redstone Room.

And while studio recording can be a challenge for neophytes, Knudsen sidestepped that issue in two ways – by fine-tuning the songs in live settings and having the process come to him by tracking with mobile equipment in his quintet’s practice space. “It was exactly like being in my living room and recording the whole album,” Knudsen said in a phone interview last week.

 
“We Don’t Want to Slow Down”: D.R.I., May 30 at RIBCO PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Friday, 23 May 2014 13:17

D.R.I. Photo by Colin Davis.

The seminal crossover-thrash band D.R.I. released its seventh studio album, Full Speed Ahead, in 1995, and fans hungry for an eighth album ... well, they’ll need to keep waiting.

Founding vocalist Kurt Brecht, in a recent phone interview promoting D.R.I.’s May 30 appearance at RIBCO, said the band isn’t against the idea and has made fits and starts. It recorded four demos in 2004 and released a Web-only track from those sessions. And, he added, founding guitarist Spike Cassidy “was saying something about recording the next time we’re in L.A. with the engineer that used to do our old albums when we were on Metal Blade Records.”

But, he said, if something comes from that studio time, it will likely be an EP. “Not that we couldn’t write a full album,” he said. “It’s just we’ve been so busy touring and stuff, we don’t want to stop to put out an album. ... We’re just so happy to have an unlimited amount of dates thrown at us all over the world to play, so we don’t want to slow down.” Plus, without a current record deal, the band is under no obligation to release new material – and getting a record deal or self-releasing an album would require energy that could be devoted to touring.

 
The Best of Both Worlds: Black Star Riders Build on Thin Lizzy, May 30 at Rascals Live PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 15 May 2014 05:23

When guitarist Damon Johnson was recruited from Alice Cooper’s band to play in Thin Lizzy in 2011, he had no idea that he was also joining another band.

“The initial discussions were just about filling that soon-to-be-vacant guitar spot,” Johnson said in a phone interview this week. “And that was enough for me, as a student of Thin Lizzy’s music – not just the guitar players, but Phil [Lynott]’s songwriting.

“So it was extra exciting for me, literally the second or third day that I was there, [that] there was a discussion about wanting to write and record new material for a Thin Lizzy album.”

 
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